Other drugs and substances

It’s sometimes said that alcohol is a gateway drug to narcotics. That youngsters who drink alcohol will look for stronger kicks and eventually try hard drugs. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Most young people don’t even consider trying narcotics. However, smoking cannabis, for example, is more common among heavy users of alcohol or tobacco smokers.


Just like alcohol, nicotine increases your body’s production of dopamine, which makes you feel happy and feel good. But nicotine is strongly addictive and has a massive effect on your body. Effects include an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and poorer overall fitness. Memory and learning abilities are also affected.  It was previously thought that to get addicted to nicotine, you had to use tobacco every day, but research has shown that you can become addicted even if you don’t smoke or use snus (moist snuff) every day.


11 per cent of girls and 8 per cent of boys in the ninth grade say that they smoke. The corresponding figures in year 2 of upper secondary school (2019) were 21 per cent of girls and 20 per cent of boys.  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 who use snus declined during the start of this century. However over the past few years it has increased again.  Snus usage is more common amongst boys, but the figures are increasing for both girls and boys. In 2020, 13 per cent of boys and 7 per cent of girls in the ninth grade said that they used snus. The corresponding figures amongst upper secondary school students  (2019) was 22 per cent of boys and 10 per cent of girls.

If my parents nag me too much I just stop listening.

Noah, aged 15, Gothenburg


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?


Electronic cigarettes are a relatively new product and one that has rapidly grown in popularity amongst young people. In 2020, one third of all ninth graders said that they had used e-cigarettes. The liquids inhaled when vaping often contain both nicotine and additives that can be harmful to health. The minimum age limit for both e-cigarettes and ordinary cigarettes is 18 years.


In Sweden, it’s illegal to buy, sell, use, produce or possess narcotics or controlled medicines without a prescription. The attitude towards cannabis, for example, is more liberal in some other countries. But in Sweden, it’s illegal for young people and adults alike.


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

I’d never try drugs. If someone offered, I’d just walk away.

Ida, aged 15, Örebro


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’.


Cannabis (marijuana or hashish) is the most common narcotic in Sweden. 6 per cent of girls and 9 per cent of boys in the ninth grade said they had tried narcotics. It’s even more common amongst year 2 upper secondary school students, with 13 per cent of girls and 19 per cent of boys (2019) stating that they had used narcotics. Around 9 out of every 10 of these students had tried 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. Half of those who use it daily will develop an addiction.


Many pharmaceutical products are classified as narcotics because they can give you a rush and cause addiction. 5 per cent of ninth graders have, at some point, used sleeping pills, tranquillisers, analgesics, or central nervous system stimulants. Around 3 per cent of 9th graders (2020) and 4 per cent of upper secondary school students (2019) have combined alcohol with pharmaceuticals in order to become intoxicated. 8 per cent of ninth graders have used narcotics, if you include those who have also used pharmaceutical products classified as narcotics without a prescription. You’ll find suggestions on organisations you can contact for information about other substances 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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