Substance Use

The negative effects of substance use by adolescents (including the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs) are well documented, and can include delinquent behavior, poor academic performance, risky sexual behaviors, psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety or antisocial personality disorder, and other health-related issues (Ellickson, Tucker, & Klein, 2003; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999; Centers Disease Control and Prevention).  Use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana, sometimes called “gateway drugs,” may increase the likelihood of other drug use (National Drug Intelligence Center, 2002).   Because teens who use one of these often use other substances as well, prevention programs that target multiple substances may be more successful than those that focus on only one (Epstein, Botvin, Griffin, & Diaz, 2000).  

By ChildTrends



Sources Cited

Ellickson, P. L., Tucker, J. S., and Klein, D. J. (2003).  Ten-year prospective study of public health problems associated with early drinking.  Pediatrics, 111 (5), 949-955. 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies.  (1999). The relationship between mental health and substance abuse among adolescents.  Available at 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division of Adolescent and School Health, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Healthy Youth! See website at  

Office on National Drug Control Policy, Juveniles and Drugs.  Available at

Child Trends.  (2010).  Substance-free youth.   Child Trends DataBank.  Retrieved from 

National Drug Intelligence Center.  (April 2002).  Illicit drugs and youth.  Retrieved from 

Epstein, J.A., Botvin, G.J., Griffin, K.W., and Diaz, T. (2000).  Role of ethnicity and gender in polydrug use among a longitudinal sample of inner-city adolescents.  Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 45, 1-12.