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Substance Use Information for ABCD® Study Participants

As part of the ABCD Study®, we are providing information to everyone about alcohol and drug use and what to do if you or any of your friends ever experience an emergency.

What You Tell Us is Private, Unless You Need
Emergency Medical Attention

If you tell us about using alcohol or drugs during your research visit, we will keep that information private and confidential unless we believe your current substance use is immediately life-threatening at the time of evaluation. For example, alcohol and drug use can result in an overdose, which can threaten someone’s life.

If we are concerned about your safety and feel you need immediate medical attention, we will alert you and your parent/guardian and assist with getting you immediate medical assistance, including calling 911.

BrainThe Effects of Substance Use
on Young People

The adolescent brain is in a critical stage of development, with the prefrontal cortex—responsible for decision-making and impulse control—still developing. This phase, coupled with heightened peer influence, curiosity, and a desire for experimentation, provides opportunities for teens to shape their adult identity. However, it can also lead young people to engage in behaviors like substance use that can harm health or result in injury. Adolescents may feel that substance use improves mental health or helps overcome barriers, but often it can lead to detrimental physical and mental health effects, particularly with frequent use.

Research has shown that engaging in substance use during this critical period can interfere with normal development of brain regions including the prefrontal cortex, leading to difficulties in self-regulation and impulse control. Early substance use puts teens at greater risk of addiction and long-term harm.

Check out these resources to learn more about risks associated with substance use and why young people are uniquely vulnerable.

Why is Fentanyl dangerous?

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that is sometimes added to other drugs like heroin, cocaine, or cannabis. This can be extremely dangerous because even a tiny amount of fentanyl can be deadly. Any drug not prescribed to you by a doctor could contain a deadly dose of fentanyl. In 2020, 76% of drug overdose deaths in 14- to 23-year-olds involved fentanyl.

Facts About Drinking Alcohol
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Young people face unique risks for substance addiction and other harms relative to adults because their brains and bodies are still developing. Learn about how alcohol poses unique risks for youth.

  1. Facts About Adolescent Drinking: https://niaaaforteens.niaaa.nih.gov
    Information about how alcohol affects teen health, how to identify signs of a problem, and how to get help.
  2. Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health: https://bit.ly/477vdqp
    Research-based information about drinking patterns and how they may affect your health.

If Someone is Overdosing
on Drugs or Alcohol: ACT QUICKLY!

Overdose is a dangerous result of drug or alcohol use that happens when someone takes enough of the drug or alcohol for it to reach toxic levels, causing a serious reaction to the body such as changing heart rate, temperature, or stopping someone’s breathing.

  • If you believe someone is overdosing or in danger after using drugs or alcohol, immediately call 911 for medical attention. Do NOT leave the intoxicated person alone.
  • If known, tell the emergency responders what the person took and how much they had. If known, provide any other health information such as medications they take.
  • Keep the person on the ground in a sitting or partially upright position to prevent falls. Help a person who is vomiting: have them lean forward to prevent choking. If they are unconscious or lying down, roll them onto one side with an ear towards the ground to prevent choking.
  • If someone has taken an opioid, heroin, or prescription pain reliever and is showing signs of an overdose, naloxone as a nasal spray (Narcan) or through an injection (Enzio) can reverse the effects of the drug.

Not sure how to spot an overdose? Read more about substance use emergencies and treatments:

How to Find Help with Substance Problems

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a free hotline and website where you can get confidential, 24-hour a day information on how to get help for yourself or your loved ones who are experiencing substance use problems. They will provide referrals to local treatment facilities and support groups.

  • National suicide prevention and crisis help is available 24-hours a day at the National Helpline. Dial 988 for free, confidential support.
  • Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (TTY: 1-800-487-4357) or read more at https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.

Learn more about treatment for alcohol use and substance use: