What makes drugs so bad for you?
Drugs can be harmful for you in lots of ways. Even occasional or experimental drug use can be dangerous, since drugs can have unexpected adverse health effects even with one use; and drugs affect your ability to exert good judgment--making it more likely that you might engage in risky behaviors that can have serious consequences, such as driving while intoxicated. Prolonged drug abuse can cause all sorts of medical problems--like lung cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and addiction. When someone is addicted to drugs, it becomes the most important thing in that person's life, causing them major problems at school, home, and work.
Are teens particularly vulnerable to becoming addicted to drugs?
Teens are in a period of tremendous upheaval regarding how their bodies are changing and their brains as well. In fact, scientists only recently learned how much brain development goes on during the adolescent years and well into early adulthood. This means that the teen brain is wired somewhat differently from the adult brain and that exposure to drugs (or other important stimuli) during this phase can affect how the brain develops. We know that teen decision making is often different from that of adults, and can involve more risk-taking. Some of this is good--helping teens learn who they are and what they want to be, but some risks can have serious negative consequences as well--a factor that's less impressive to the teen brain. What we do know is that early drug use is associated with later drug problems--whether this is because of changes in the brain that are especially prominent during adolescence, or other factors, such as co-occurring depression or anxiety, or exposure to trauma or stress is not yet clear.
Can depression be a reason to use drugs?
People who are depressed sometimes turn to using illicit drugs to feel better, but that would be a temporary solution at best. Typically it is asking for more serious trouble. Illicit drugs can make you feel high for a little while soon after you take them, but when they leave your body you won't feel any better--and you may feel worse--than before you took them. With continued drug abuse, the period of feeling good grows shorter and the subsequent bad feelings get worse. If you or someone you know feels depressed, talk to a doctor. There are many treatments for depression. There are medications that have been tested and approved by the FDA, and there are psychosocial or behavioral treatments that can help improve feelings of depression that do not involve taking medications.