Substance abuse
and risk-taking behaviours

Illegal drug use and supply is on the rise, with new synthetic and high-power substances rapidly expanding around the World. Young people are especially vulnerable to problematic use of illegal drugs.

Adolescents exposed to risk factors such as poverty and marginalization, trauma and abuse, peer pressures, and educational failures, are more vulnerable to developing problematic substance abuse. Untreated mental illness is another important risk factor for substance abuse.

Cannabis (or marijuana) is highly used by young people around the World. This can have important consequences over their mental health. For example, early and intense use of cannabis can lead to severe mental health issues – such as psychosis - in vulnerable individuals. Unfortunately, cannabis is still often perceived as a ‘low risk’ substance by young people.

Tobacco and alcohol are also common among young people. Alcohol is particularly linked with depression and risk of suicide. Substance abuse also increases the chance of other high-risk behaviours, such as unsafe sex and crime.