Information for Preteens: Body Science,
About Alcohol, Tobacco, and Marijuana
While you are growing up, you might face peer pressure to try drugs. The decisions you make in these situations are up to you. You're the only one who can make healthy choices for your mind and body.
Drugs are especially harmful to someone who is still growing, because your body is less able to process them. Kids are smaller than adults and the smaller you are, the more a drug can affect you.
Everyone is different. While a substance may affect one person one way, it can affect a different person an entirely different way. Everyone has a different reaction to drugs.
There are many different types of drugs and substances that can affect your body. Some of the most common are:
(Note: Marijuana is also known as pot, dope, or weed)
Some common substances, such as glue, are also used as drugs. They may be sniffed, smoked or eaten. Abusing these substances by putting them in your body is just as dangerous as using illegal drugs.
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Tobacco contains a substance called nicotine, which is very addictive (meaning it's hard to stop putting nicotine into your body once you've started).
Cigarette smoking is the most common form of tobacco. Cigarettes and cigars are especially bad for you because tobacco smoke puts many poisons into your mouth, throat, and lungs – as well as pollutes the air around the smoker.
Smoking also affects your appearance. Short-term exposure to tobacco smoke can cause:
- Yellow teeth and fingernails
- Bad breath and mouth sores
- Stinky odors on hair, clothes, furniture, and in the air
- Cancer – especially in the lungs, mouth, and throat
- A strong increase in the chances of heart attacks and strokes
For more information about the risks of long-term smoking, visit Facts About Smoking.
Chewing tobacco, or smokeless tobacco, is also very damaging. Tobacco chewers are even more likely than smokers to get mouth, throat, cheek, or stomach cancer – they usually have mouth sores and yellow teeth, too.
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Alcohol is found in beer, wine, and liquor. Drinks in the liquor category usually contain more alcohol than beer or wine, but all forms of alcohol are dangerous.
Drinking alcohol can cause:
- Bad breath
- Weight gain (alcoholic drinks have a lot of calories)
- Vomiting or nausea
- Clumsiness and loss of coordination
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor judgment
- Black outs, which means you can't remember anything after the alcohol wears off that happened while you were under the influence of alcohol
- Death, if you drink too much
- Cancer, because it travels around your body through your blood
- Brain damage
- Black outs or passing out
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Marijuana – which is commonly called pot, dope, or weed – is made from a dried plant called cannabis. People either smoke it like a cigarette (called a joint) or add it to certain foods.
They call the feeling they get after smoking or eating marijuana a "high". The main chemical that makes you feel funny is called THC.
Marijuana joints have more of the cancer-causing chemicals than cigarettes. Smoking five joints in a single week is as bad as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes every day for a week!
Using marijuana can make you feel:
- Silly or giggly
- Very hungry
- Off balance and sick, even hours after the high wears off
- Unable to use good judgment
- Yellow fingernails and bad breath
- Damage to your memory
- Challenges to learning and concentrating, making you do worse in school
- Cancer in the lungs, mouth, and throat
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high school student writer
Reviewed by: Adolescent Interest Group
Last reviewed: August 2013