Adolescent Substance Use

This entry concerns cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use among adolescents (i.e., persons 12–18 years of age). These are the substances with the highest rates of use in adolescence. They are sometimes characterized as “gateway” substances because illicit drug users often started out by using one or more of them. Substances including heroin, cocaine, inhalants, and hallucinogens (e.g., LSD) are not unimportant but typically have low rates of use in the general population of adolescents. Misuse of prescription drugs (e.g., stimulants or painkillers) by adolescents is a new public health issue with increasing rates.

Adolescent substance use is relevant to abnormal and clinical psychology for two reasons. One is that tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana use by persons under 18 years is illegal in most jurisdictions and ...

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