Other drugs and substances

Alcohol is sometimes said to be a gateway drug to narcotics, and that youngsters who drink alcohol will look for stronger kicks and eventually try hard drugs. Fortunately, this is rarely the case, and most young people don’t even consider trying narcotics. Smoking cannabis, is, on the other hand, more common among heavy users of alcohol or tobacco smokers.

TOBACCO

Just like alcohol, nicotine increases your body’s production of dopamine, which makes you, temporarily, feel happy and feel good.

But nicotine is strongly addictive and affects your body in a number of different ways, including an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and poorer overall fitness. Memory and learning abilities are also negatively affected. 

SMOKING

Smoking has declined steeply amongst teenagers since 2010, and eight per cent of ninth graders and 17 per cent of year 2 upper secondary school students now say that they smoke. The vast majority do so sporadically, and smoking is more common amongst girls than boys.

Almost 7 out of every 10 high school and upper secondary school students who smoke say that they would like to quit, but the majority say they will do so “in the future”. As a teenager, it can be hard to understand that quitting will get harder and harder for every year that passes.  

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

Noah, aged 15, Gothenburg

SNUS

Snus (moist snuff) usage among young people had been in decline since the start of the new millennium, but has over the last few years increased. In 2021, eleven per cent of ninth graders and 23 per cent of year 2 upper secondary school students said that they used snus. Snus usage is more common amongst boys, and it’s far more common for boys to use snus every day, but usage levels are also increasing amongst girls.

“White snus”, as it is known, has become popular in Sweden in recent years. It is marketed as a “fresher alternative” to ordinary snus, and because it is classified as tobacco-free (despite containing the addictive substance, nicotine), it can currently be marketed and sold to absolutely anyone. It is probable that “white snus” is what lies behind the increase in snus usage, particularly amongst girls.

PARENTS AND TOBACCO

If you’re an adult who smokes or uses snus, you should still try to convince your teenager that they shouldn’t start using. And maybe that discussion could be a good basis for you quitting too.

E-CIGARETTES. Electronic cigarettes are a relatively new product that quickly became popular amongst young people, but whose use has declined over the past year. In 2021, just under 24 per cent of ninth graders and 35 per cent of upper secondary school students said that they had used e-cigarettes, but few of them do so regularly.

The liquids inhaled when vaping often contain both nicotine and additives that can be harmful. The minimum age limit is 18, just as for ordinary cigarettes. 

Tonårstjej med hörlurar
Photo: Pablo Frisk

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

Ida, aged 15, Örebro

ALL NARCOTICS ARE ILLEGAL

In Sweden, it’s illegal to buy, sell, use, produce, or possess narcotics and 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.

WHERE DO THEY GET THE NARCOTICS?

The majority – 48 per cent – of ninth graders who have used narcotics in the past year obtained them from dealers. The second most common sources were girlfriends, boyfriends, or friends (42 per cent). The majority of upper secondary school students who had obtained narcotics did so from friends or girl- or boyfriends. 

HOW DO THEY AFFECT THE BODY?

Cannabis and other types of narcotics affect the brain and can cause problems with concentration, poorer memory, and a deterioration in learning ability. Young people’s brains are particularly sensitive, which means narcotics can cause more damage than in adults’ brains. 

CANNABIS – THE MOST COMMON NARCOTIC

Cannabis (marijuana or hash) is the most common narcotic in Sweden. Five per cent of girls and seven per cent of boys in the ninth grade say that they have used narcotics at some point, with two per cent doing so in the past month. 13 per cent of girls and 17 per cent of boys in the second year of upper secondary school have also used narcotics at some point, with four per cent having done so in the past month. 84 per cent of the high school students and 92 per cent of the upper secondary school students who have tried narcotics stated that they had used cannabis. Marijuana is currently the most common cannabis variant, while ten years ago, it was hash.   

There is a clear change in attitudes to cannabis, both amongst young people who have tried the drug and those who have not. In 2019, when ninth graders were asked if using cannabis regularly was very risky, 58 per cent said that it was. In 1995, just over 90 per cent said ”Yes” in response to the same question.

Use of narcotics such as ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines is uncommon amongst teenagers.   

CAN YOU GET ADDICTED TO CANNABIS?

Yes. Approximately 1 in 10 people who have ever used 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.  

PHARMACEUTICALS

Many pharmaceutical products are classified as narcotics because they can give you a rush and cause addiction. Ten per cent of students in both the ninth grade and the 2nd year of upper secondary school state that they have, at some point, used this kind of pharmaceutical without a prescription. Many who have done so do not equate it to having used narcotics. If these students are included in the percentage who have, at some point, used narcotics, the numbers rise to 13 per cent of ninth graders and 21 per cent of upper secondary school students.  

Combining alcohol with pharmaceuticals can be literally fatal. Over the past five years, around three per cent of ninth graders and five per cent of upper secondary school students have combined drugs in that way.  

NEW DRUGS ON THE MARKET

New, often synthetic drugs are constantly turning up on the market. They are often marketed online, and are consequently often referred to as ”online drugs”. New psychoactive substances (NPS) are another new concept. These substances are launched onto the market before it has become illegal to sell or buy them, but that doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous now.

Around one per cent of both ninth graders and upper secondary school students say that they have tried NPS at some point. This is a considerable reduction from the level when surveys of this usage began ten years ago.  

You’ll find tips about organisations you can contact for more information about other drugs on this page.

More to read about the same topic

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

When parents are not around

Back to The Teenage Phrasebook home page