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catching it early

Most experts believe anyone can become addicted to substances. Some substances, like nicotine and heroin, are so highly addictive that using them excessively or on a daily basis can lead to addiction in anyone. However, most people who try substances do not progress to heavy use or addiction.

That said, any substance use during the teen and young adult years is a concern. The human brain continues to develop well into one’s twenties, making the adolescent and young adult years a critical point of focus for establishing healthy behavior and habits. Substance use during these years creates the potential for a variety of long-term negative effects. 90% of people with addictions started using substances in their teen years.

Teen Substance Abuse

teen substance abuse

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Jessica Matthews

Sevier County Prevention Coordinator

Phone: (865) 774 - 3745



Vaping has become one of the most popular forms of substance abuse, especially among teens. Teens and parents alike should be educated about vaping and it's potential for harm. Thousands of illnesses and even several dozen deaths have been linked to vaping.

Woman Vaping

Here are the Facts about vaping


Vaping products come in thousands of tasty flavors, many with fun and enticing names like gummy bear, cotton candy, fruity pebbles and tastes sweet making them feel harmless. Recent crackdowns on flavors by the federal, state and local governments have begun to ban fruity flavors that appease to children and teens, aside from menthol and tobacco these vapes are generally banned in refillable cartridge-based devices like JUUL, loopholes in regulations are driving kids to flavored disposable vapes that have even higher nicotine content and come in countless enticing flavors.


High levels of nicotine

Nicotine doses in vaping products can range from 2mg/ml to more than 59mg/ml, and some companies are engaging in “a nicotine arms race,” trying to raise the dose to levels that exceed those found in traditional cigarettes or competing vapes. JUULs currently contains 59mg/ml of nicotine in each pod in the United States — an amount equal to about 1-2 packs of cigarettes.


Other chemicals, metals, and ultrafine particles


The aerosol, which many teens believe "is harmless water vapor", actually consists of many chemicals, heavy metals, and fine particles — many of which are toxic and dangerous — that seeps deep into the lungs and bloodstream when vaping.    


Marijuana or other drugs

Increasingly, marijuana compounds such as THC and CBD are found in vaping products. These vapes are referred to as "Dab pens" and most of these pens are claimed to be from legal distilleries from a state like California, when in fact they are mostly homemade and full of toxins and even pesticides.

Vaping is Bad

More and more, nicotine and other chemicals in vapes are being tied to an increased heart rate and blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as inflammation, asthma, and wheezing. They also can cause inflammatory processes and depress immune function in the lungs and are associated with chronic bronchitis and a reduced ability to fight off bacterial and viral infections.

Image by John Fornander

52.1% of high school seniors used alcohol in the past year.


Source: 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey


More than 16 million Americans misuse or are addicted to alcohol. Heavy use of alcohol can lead to addiction (known as alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism), liver and heart disease, and other health consequences such as a weakened immune system and increased risk of developing certain cancers. 

Here are the Facts about Alcohol


Teen Drinking

Alcohol is the most widely used substance among America’s teens and young adults, posing substantial health and safety risks.

Teens try alcohol for a variety of reasons – to exert independence, to feel more carefree, or escape from stress, peer pressure, and even boredom. Many tend to do so without fully recognizing alcohol’s negative effects or health risks.

What's inside Alcohol

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and contains ethynol alcohol or ethanol. Ethanol is the intoxicating ingredient in beer, wine, and liquor, and is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches. Alcohol is usually a liquid that is drunk. Its color and packaging vary widely, and types include beer, wine, and liquor

Alcohol's Effects on the Body

Drinking too much – on a single occasion or over time – can take a serious toll on your health.  Here’s how alcohol can affect your body:

Brain: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.  


Heart: Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including:

  • Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of the heart muscle

  • Arrhythmias – Irregular heartbeat

  • Stroke

  • High blood pressure  

Liver: Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including:

  • Steatosis, or fatty liver

  • Alcoholic hepatitis

  • Fibrosis

  • Cirrhosis

Pancreas: Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion. 



Cigarettes cause more than 480,000 premature deaths in the United States each year—from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. This represents about 1,300 deaths every day. An additional 16 million people suffer from a serious illness caused by smoking. So, for every 1 person who dies from smoking, 30 more suffer from at least 1 serious tobacco-related illness.

Image by Philippe Goulet

tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. 


Here are the Facts about Tobacco

Teen Tobacco Use

Nearly 90% of adult daily smokers began smoking by the age of 18 and roughly 2,000 youth under 18 smoke their first cigarette every day in the United States. Tobacco usage is almost always started and established during adolescence when the developing brain is most vulnerable to nicotine addiction.  

What's inside Tobacco

There are many chemicals found in tobacco leaves but nicotine is the one that can lead to addiction. Other chemicals produced by smoking tobacco, such as tar, carbon monoxide, acetaldehyde, and nitrosamines, also can cause serious harm to the body. For example, tar causes lung cancer and other serious diseases that affect breathing, and carbon monoxide can cause heart problems. These toxic chemicals can be dangerous. In fact, tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. 

Health Effects 

Smoking can cause chronic lung disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke, as well as cancer of the lungs, larynx, esophagus, mouth, and bladder. In addition, smoking is known to contribute to cancer of the cervix, pancreas, and kidneys. Researchers have identified more than 40 chemicals in tobacco smoke that cause cancer in humans and animals. Smokeless tobacco and cigars also have deadly consequences, including lung, larynx, esophageal, and oral cancer.The harmful effects of smoking do not end with the smoker. Women who use tobacco during pregnancy are more likely to have adverse birth outcomes, including babies with low birth weight, which is linked with an increased risk of infant death and with a variety of infant health disorders. The health of nonsmokers is adversely affected by environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease each year. Between 1964 and 2014, 2.5 million people died from exposure to secondhand smoke, according to a report from the U.S. Surgeon General. The report also concluded that secondhand smoke is a definitive cause of stroke


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Marijuana is the most commonly used psychotropic drug in the United States, after alcohol.1 Its use is widespread among young people. In 2018, more than 11.8 million young adults used marijuana in the past year.

Here are the Facts about Marijuana (Cannabis)

People can mix marijuana in food (edibles), such as brownies, cookies, or candy, or brew it as a tea. A newly popular method of use is smoking or eating different forms of THC-rich resins


Marijuana Extracts

Smoking THC-rich resins extracted from the marijuana plant is on the rise. People call this practice dabbing. These extracts come in various forms, such as:

  • hash oil or honey oil—a gooey liquid

  • wax or budder—a soft solid with a texture like lip balm

  • shatter—a hard, amber-colored solid

A Rise in Marijuana’s THC Levels

The amount of THC in marijuana has been increasing steadily over the past few decades. For a person who's new to marijuana use, this may mean exposure to higher THC levels with a greater chance of a harmful reaction. Higher THC levels may explain the rise in emergency room visits involving marijuana use.

The popularity of edibles also increases the chance of harmful reactions. Edibles take longer to digest and produce a high. Therefore, people may consume more to feel the effects faster, leading to dangerous results.

Higher THC levels may also mean a greater risk for addiction if people are regularly exposing themselves to high doses.

Physical Effects

  • Breathing problems. Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, and people who smoke marijuana frequently can have the same breathing problems as those who smoke tobacco. These problems include daily cough and phlegm, more frequent lung illness, and a higher risk of lung infections. Researchers so far haven't found a higher risk of lung cancer in people who smoke marijuana.8

  • Increased heart rate. Marijuana raises the heart rate for up to 3 hours after smoking. This effect may increase the chance of a heart attack. Older people and those with heart problems may be at higher risk.

  • Intense nausea and vomiting. Regular, long-term marijuana use can lead to some people to develop Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. This causes users to experience regular cycles of severe nausea, vomiting, and dehydration, sometimes requiring emergency medical attention.

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Prescription & OTC Medicines

Misuse of medication often begins during the teen and young adult years. When these medicines are misused, they can have serious consequences. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are sold directly to people without a prescription. Which is dangerous to our youth.

Pile of Pills

3.9% of high school seniors misused Adderall in the past year


Source: 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey

Here are the Facts about Prescription & OTC Medicines

OTC Medicines

 OTC medicines treat a variety of illnesses and their symptoms, including pain, coughs and colds, diarrhea, constipation, acne, and others. Some OTC medicines have active ingredients with the potential for misuse at higher-than-recommended dosages. Learn about the health effects of OTC medicines Dextromethorphan (DMX) and Loperamide

Prescription Medicines

When used as prescribed by a doctor, prescription medicines can be helpful in treating many illnesses. Stimulants are helpful in managing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Central nervous system (CNS) depressants treat anxiety, panic, and sleep disorders. Opioids are prescribed to treat pain, coughing, and diarrhea. But when these medicines are misused, they can have serious consequences.

Prescription Opioids

Opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some prescription opioids are made from the plant directly, and others are made by scientists in labs using the same chemical structure. Opioids are often used as medicines because they contain chemicals that relax the body and can relieve pain. Prescription opioids are used mostly to treat moderate to severe pain, though some opioids can be used to treat coughing and diarrhea. Opioids can also make people feel very relaxed and "high" - which is why they are sometimes used for non-medical reasons. This can be dangerous because opioids can be highly addictive, and overdoses and death are common. Heroin is one of the world's most dangerous opioids and is never used as a medicine in the United States.

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Image by Solen Feyissa

Benadryl Challenge

Benadryl Challenge

Benadryl Challenge Dangers

Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a very popular platform today called TikTok, have content encouraging Teens to do the "Benadryl Challenge". This Challenge has now reached millions of its users encouraging them to take 12-15 Benadryl pills, or chugging bottles of Nyquil in order to get high and hallucinate. Instead it has increased overdoses, severe health issues, and sometimes death amongst teenagers. The main ingredient in these medicines that is causing severe health issues, overdose, and sometimes death is Diphenhydramine. These platforms like Tiktok provide top quality video editing, special effects, and music that creates an illusion to some users, especially teens that these challenges look fun and exciting. They are not! These medicines are to be used directed according to your doctor or the directions. If not it can cause horrific health issues, overdoses and sometimes death. 

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Increase of Fentanyl used as Additive 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Street Gangs, Cartel and other Criminal organizations has flooded our communities with an increase of dangerous drugs now commonly laced with Fentanyl. Illicit fentanyl, primarily manufactured in China and smuggled into the United States through Mexico, is being distributed across the country and sold on the illegal drug market.  Fentanyl is being mixed in with other illicit drugs to increase the potency of the drug, sold as powders and nasal sprays, and increasingly pressed into pills made to look like legitimate prescription opioids.  Because there is no official oversight or quality control, these counterfeit pills often contain lethal doses of fentanyl, with none of the promised drug.

There is significant risk that illegal drugs have been intentionally contaminated with fentanyl. Because of its potency and low cost, drug dealers have been mixing fentanyl with other drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, increasing the likelihood of a fatal overdose. The opioid threat remains at epidemic levels, affecting large portions of the country. Meanwhile, the stimulant threat, including methamphetamine and cocaine, is worsening both in volume and reach, with traffickers selling increasing amounts outside of traditional markets.


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 83,000 people lost their lives to drug-related overdoses in the twelve-month period ending in July of 2020, a significant increase from 2019, when more than 70,000 people died of overdoses. Two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal depending on a person’s body size, tolerance and past usage.  DEA analysis has found counterfeit pills ranging from .02 to 5.1 milligrams (more than twice the lethal dose) of fentanyl per tablet. 

  • 26% of tablets tested for fentanyl contained a lethal dose.

  • Drug trafficking organizations typically distribute fentanyl by the kilogram.  One kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people.

It is possible for someone to take a pill without knowing it contains fentanyl. It is also possible to take a pill knowing it contains fentanyl, but with no way of knowing if it contains a lethal dose.

According to the CDC, synthetic opioids (like fentanyl) are the primary driver of the increases in overdose deaths in the United States, increasing 38.4 percent during the 12-month period ending May 2020. During this period:

  • 37 of the 38 U.S. jurisdictions with available synthetic opioid data reported increases in synthetic opioid-involved overdose deaths.

  • 18 of these jurisdictions reported increases greater than 50 percent.

  • 10 western states reported over a 98 percent increase in synthetic opioid-involved deaths.

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Check out Nida for Teens for more information on teen substance abuse.


Warning Signs of Drug Abuse

Use of recreational drugs, over the counter medications, or prescription drugs can lead to substance use issues. It can frequently lead to problems at work, home, school, and in relationships, and leave the user feeling isolated, helpless, or shamed. If you’re worried about your own or a loved one’s drug use, it’s helpful to know the warning signs and more importantly, that help is available and treatment works.


Common signs and symptoms of drug abuse

  • Neglecting responsibilities at school, work, or home

  • Risk-taking when you’re using, such as driving, having unprotected sex

  • Legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence 

Physical warning signs of drug abuse

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual changes in appetite, sleep patterns, physical appearance

  • unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing, or impaired coordination

Behavioral signs of drug abuse

  • Drop-in attendance and performance at work or school

  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors

  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies

Psychological warning signs of drug abuse

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude

  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, spaced-out, or angry outbursts

  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason

Recognizing there’s a problem is the first step on the road to recovery, which often takes tremendous courage and strength.  If you’re ready to face your addiction and are willing to seek help, you have the opportunity to build a satisfying, drug-free life for yourself.

For immediate help and information on treatment, contact the Redline
Phone: (800) 889-9789


Source: The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) is a voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting the nation’s #1 health problem – alcoholism, drug addiction, and the devastating consequences of alcohol and other drugs on individuals, families, and communities


Warning Signs of Alcoholism


Do you have to drink more than you used to in order to get buzzed?
Can you drink more than other people without getting drunk?

If you answered yes to either question or both, you may have signs of tolerance which can be an early warning sign of alcoholism. Tolerance means that, over time, you need more and more alcohol to feel the same effects.


Do you need a drink to steady the shakes in the morning?


If again the answer is yes, you are likely drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms, a sign of alcoholism, and a huge red flag. When you drink heavily, your body gets used to the alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms if it’s taken away.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Frequently Include:

  • Anxiety or jumpiness                 

  • Insomnia                  

  • Loss of appetite          

  • Shakiness or trembling            

  • Depression             

  • HeadacheSweating           

  • Irritability             

  • FatigueNausea and vomiting               



In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation. These symptoms can be dangerous, so talk to your doctor if you are a heavy drinker and want to quit. Admitting that there’s a serious problem can be painful, and not just for the alcohol abuser. But don’t be ashamed. You’re not alone. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse affects millions of individuals, from every social class, race, and culture. Always know there is help and support available for you or a loved one.

drug guide

Learn the facts about the most commonly used drugs. Each drug page includes a brief overview, street and clinical names, the effects of the drug on the brain and body, statistics and trends, and relevant publications and articles written by NIDA researchers and scientists.

Commonly Used Drugs Charts

Many drugs can alter a person’s thinking and judgment and can lead to health risks, including addiction, drugged driving, infectious disease, and adverse effects on pregnancy. NIDA has all the information on commonly used drugs with the potential for misuse or addiction. Click the link below for NIDA's full drug chart

drug guide

Opioid Overdose Training (Naloxone) 


Naloxone or (Narcan) is a prescription medication used to prevent death from an accidental opioid overdose. Opioids affect the body's regulation of breathing. When too many opioids are present breathing can slow to the point of stopping and overdose death can occur. Naloxone can temporarily reverse the effects of opioid overdose, its effects generally lasting 30-90 minutes. A person can become symptomatic during or after that time spn. Therefore, it is critical to call 911 and obtain assistance for the individual experiencing an overdose. Narcan is not addictive however, proper training is required. Please note some individuals may awaken confused and combative. Stay with the individual, keeping your own safety in mind, until EMS or paramedics arrive.

Sevier County C.A.R.E.S and the Office of Alcohol and Drug Programs provide overdose prevention training with Narcan distribution in the following, Blount, Cocke, Hamblen, Jefferson, Loudon, Monroe, and Sevier Counties. Training is conducted by Regional Overdose Prevention Specialist or R.O.P.S. If you are a resident, group, agency, or organization located in one of these counties and are interested in online overdose prevention training, please contact:

Regional Overdose Prevention Specialist, Marissa Valentine at


Marissa is the Region 2S point of contact for Training & Education on opioid overdose & distribution of Naloxone.

(865) 679-4506

Marissa Valentine

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