Youth Substance Use
Substance abuse may begin during adolescence for many Iowans. Use of substances, including both legal substances like prescription medications and illegal substances, at an early age is associated with future substance-related problems. Research findings demonstrate that brain development continues well into early adulthood and that substance use can interfere with such development. Substance use by youth is a serious public health concern.
Youth who use substances are more likely to:
- Experience injury or death. Youth who use substances put themselves at risk of injury or death from poisoning or substance-related accidents.
- Have impaired judgment. Substance use lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, exposing youth to serious dangers, including risky sexual behavior, impaired driving, and both physical and sexual assault.
- Experience interruptions in brain development. Substance use can negatively influence brain development, potentially affecting both brain structure and function.
- Have legal problems. It is illegal for anyone under age 21 to purchase or publicly consume alcohol in Iowa. In addition, it is illegal for anyone to use illicit substances, such as methamphetamines and marijuana. Youth who violate the law risk serious legal consequences that can impact education and employment opportunities.
- Have difficulty at school. Adolescent substance use is associated with having trouble at school, including missing class and having low grades.
- Have substance addiction and related problems. Youth who start substance use early are at risk of suffering from addiction. Youth who start using alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely at some point in their lives to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence. Additionally, there are long-term alcohol-related consequences including chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, psychological disorders, and various cancers.