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Even Occasional Drug Use Can Be Dangerous

Early Onset Abuse Means Greater Risks


Updated January 08, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Prescription drugs can be dangerous

One misconception connected to the increase in prescription drug abuse by teens is that using drugs is safe as long as you only do it "every once in a while." Many teens believe that if they only occasionally use drugs, they can't have an overdose or become addicted.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of evidence that even occasional drug use can be dangerous and can lead to a risk of developing other problems during adolescence as well as into adulthood.

Accidental Overdose Danger

We frequently see stories in the news in which a teenager experimenting with drugs for the first time dies from an accidental overdose, or a teen drinking alcohol for the first time dies from acute alcohol poisoning.

Drugs affect different people in different ways, and some people can experience dangerous side effects or even a fatal reaction the first time they take a drug. Even when you have a prescription for the drug, you can have an adverse reaction.

Risks of Early Onset Substance Abuse

Years of scientific research into early-onset substance abuse -- drinking or using drugs before age 15 especially -- is linked to a variety of risks for other problems. Research has shown that doing drugs or drinking before age 21 is linked to:

The Bottom Line on Prescription Drugs

When you abuse prescription drugs, they can be just as dangerous and addictive as street drugs. You can die from abusing prescription drugs or alcohol, even the very first time you try them.

Not everyone has a deadly or even negative reaction to taking drugs the first time, but some people do. Do you want to take that chance?

More Information: Myths About Teen Prescription Drug Abuse


Dawson, D.A., et al. "Age at First Drink and the First Incidence of Adult-Onset DSM-IV Alcohol Use Disorders," Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. December 2008

Hinson, R. et. al, "Early drinking linked to higher lifetime alcoholism risk," Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, July 2006.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration "National Survey on Drug Use and Health Accessed 2010.

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