Few periods in a person’s life are more stressful than the teenage years. Bodies are changing; emotions and hormones are running strong. Kids face challenges and stress factors on a daily basis from family, friends, school, and especially from social media. Today more than ever, it’s a challenging time to be a teen.

Unfortunately, during those stressful years, many adolescents turn to drugs to cope with feelings of distress. They mistakenly believe that while using drugs may be harmful, it provides an easy and available solution for relieving stress. And while most tell us marijuana is their preferred drug when feeling stressed, alcohol and tobacco are also commonly used.

Public health experts, however, warn that marijuana use can do real harm to the teen’s developing brain as well as lead to lower IQs. In addition, it can significantly hamper their capacity to drive safely. Certain drugs, for example, actually affect the brain in much the same way as stress, causing the body to release powerful neuro-chemicals. Compared to non-users, long-term drug use can even make teens more sensitive to normal stress they may experience every day.

The tangible connection between stress and drug use is also confirmed by the latest brain research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The organization reports people undergoing stress are more likely to use drugs or alcohol for relief, or could more easily fall into addiction. That is why, during those stress-inducing teenage years, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to substance use.

The good news is, rather than turning to drugs, teenagers have a number of healthier and less harmful options for reducing stress. Here are some practical tips and techniques for stress management, direct from NIDA:

1) Take care of yourself. Healthy foods, exercise, and enough sleep really do make you feel better and better able to cope!

2) Focus. To keep from feeling overwhelmed, concentrate on challenges one at a time.

3) Keep calm. Step away from an argument or confrontation by taking a deep breath. Go for a walk or do some other physical activity.

4) Move on. If you don’t achieve something you were trying for, practice and prepare for the next time, or check out some other activity.

5) Talk about it. Talking to an understanding listener who remains calm can be very helpful.