Other drugs

Alcohol and tobacco consumption have both declined amongst teenagers during the 2000s. Narcotics usage levels, however, have stayed fairly constant. It’s sometimes said that alcohol is a gateway drug to narcotics. That anyone who drinks in their teens will look for stronger kicks and will eventually try heroin. Fortunately, this isn’t actually the case, and trying narcotics never even occurs to most teenagers who drink. What we do know, however, is that it’s considerably more common for heavy alcohol users, or tobacco smokers, to smoke cannabis as well.

Tobacco – quickly addictive

Tobacco is like alcohol, in that it increases your body’s production of dopamine, which makes you feel happy and good. But nicotine is even more addictive than alcohol. It was previously thought that to get addicted to nicotine, you had to use tobacco every day, but research has shown that teenagers can become addicted to nicotine even if they only smoke or use moist snuff at weekends. Nicotine can, amongst other things increase your heart rate and your blood pressure, and damages your overall fitness. Memory and learning abilities are also negatively affected.

Smoking and snus usage today

9 per cent of boys and 13 per cent of girls in the ninth grade – and 19 per cent and 26 per cent of boys and girls year 2 upper secondary school students, respectively – say that they smoke. More than 6 out of every 10 smokers want to quit, but the majority of them said that they would do so “at some point in the future”. It’s hard for teenagers to understand that quitting will get harder and harder for every year that passes and that it may eventually become one of the hardest things they could do. The percentage using moist snuff (snus) has remained relatively unchanged in recent years. In 2018, 10 per cent of boys and 3 per cent of girls in the ninth grade said that they used moist snuff. The corresponding figures amongst upper secondary school students is 21 per cent of boys and 6 per cent of girls.

Parents and tobacco

If you’re an adult who smokes or uses snus, you can, of course, choose to continue to do so. But you should still try to convince your teenager that they shouldn’t start using, too. Who knows? Maybe, if you have that discussion, it’ll persuade you to try quitting yourself?

Cannabis – the most common narcotic

Cannabis (marijuana or hash) is by far the most common narcotic in Sweden. In 2018, 8 per cent of boys and 6 per cent of girls in the ninth grade said that they had tried a narcotic. Upper secondary school students are over twice as likely to have used narcotics as ninth graders (17 per cent of boys and 14 per cent of girls). And more than 9 out of every 10 of them had smoked cannabis.

If you've been drinking for ages, you get bored with it and look for buzz elsewhere. That's when you try drugs instead.

Amanda, aged 15, Örebro

All narcotics are illegal

In Sweden, it’s illegal to buy, sell, use, produce or possess narcotics or controlled medicines without a prescription. Some countries have a more liberal attitude towards cannabis for example. But in Sweden it’s illegal – no matter how old or young you may be.

Where do they get the narcotics?

Young people who have used narcotics most commonly get them from friends or from their girlfriend or boyfriend. Just over half of 9th graders and 6 out of every 10 of upper secondary school students mentioned this as their source. The second most common source is dealers or acquaintances. And the more commonly people use narcotics, the more likely they are to buy from dealers or to order online.

How is your body affected?

Cannabis and other types of drugs affect the brain. You may experience problems concentrating, your memory may be poorer and you may find it harder to learn things. That’s not good for anyone, but it’s perhaps worst of all for anyone who is in school. Not only that, but young people’s brains are particularly sensitive, so drugs will cause more damage in young people’s brains than in adults’.

Can you get addicted to cannabis?

Absolutely. Approximately 1 in 10 people who ever use cannabis and 1 in 6 of those who start using cannabis at an early age, become addicted. And 1 in 3 of those who use it daily will develop an addiction.

E-cigarettes and vaping

Electronic cigarettes are a relatively new product and one that has rapidly grown in popularity amongst young people. In 2018, almost one third of all ninth graders and more than 4 in every 10 upper secondary school students said that they had used e-cigarettes. The liquids inhaled when vaping often contain nicotine, as well as additives that are harmful to health. The minimum age limit for both e-cigarettes and ordinary cigarettes is 18.


Many pharmaceutical products are classified as narcotics because they can give you a rush and cause addiction. 6 per cent of 9th graders and 8 per cent of year 2 upper secondary school students have, at some point, used a sleeping tablet/tranquilizer or analgesic that was not prescribed for them. Around 3 per cent of 9th graders and 5 per cent of upper secondary school students have combined alcohol with pharmaceuticals in order to become intoxicated. Doing so is almost twice as common amongst girls as amongst boys. You’ll find suggestions on organisations you can contact for information about other drugs here.

More to read about the same topic

The teenage years

The teenage years are a very special time in your child’s life. Teenagers are navigating the frontier lands between childhood and adulthood and there are a lot of new things to handle: school, friends, being allowed to stay out late, sex, parties and – not least – alcohol.

Useful contacts and more info

It can sometimes be good to talk to someone who knows a bit more about teenagers and alcohol, or about anything else, for that matter.

If you want to do more

There’s a lot you can do to support and be there for teenagers. Maybe you can take part in night-time patrols, or make it easier for them to say “no”, or help promote a smarter approach to alcohol in some other way.

Other important topics to read about

Teenagers and alcohol

There are many considerations that can easily arise when your child becomes a teenager. But first and foremost: how do young people think about drinking themselves? And why is it more dangerous to drink alcohol in adolescence than as an adult?

Take responsibility

Maybe you sometimes feel pretty helpless as a parent. But there’s a lot you can do. As always showing that you care, that you’re there and that you are happy to listen. And often it’s important to be clear about what you expect of your teenager.

If parents are not around

Festivals, home parties and trips abroad are examples of situations where adults are rarely present. There are some pitfalls that you, as a parent, should be aware of and that you can teach your teenager how to handle.

Yes or no?

The clearer you communicate your expectations, the easier it is for your teenager to take a stand or do what you say. Also, think about what sort of message and values you’re conveying to your child.

Teenager’s drinking habits

Not only is it illegal to buy alcohol for young people, but most adults think that alcohol is something teenagers should be avoiding. So where are teenagers getting their alcohol? How much do they drink? And what sort of problems do young people experience in connection to alcohol?

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