Substance Abuse Among Teens Can Lead to a Lifetime of Abuse
A recent study in the Archives of General Psychiatry revealed high numbers of teens who are experimenting with drugs and alcohol, putting them at risk for early dependency and social and physical problems that may plague them for the rest of their lives. Between February 2001 and January 2004, researchers surveyed alcohol and drug exposure and use among 10,123 teens aged 13 to 18. Of those teens, 78 percent had already experienced their first taste of alcohol and 42.5 percent had already experimented drugs.
Teen Alcohol Abuse
Teens aren’t just trying one drink in their early years at a party or special event. Statistics from this study reveal that 47 percent of this group admitted consuming 12 or more drinks over the past year. The alarm is that they are abusing alcohol at such an early age. Age 14 was recorded as the median age for teens to start abusing alcohol. Fifteen percent of the teens in this study were categorized as likely lifetime alcohol abusers.
Teen Drug Abuse
While a little less than half of the group had experimented with drugs, 81 percent of the group said that they had already been exposed to them and could get access to them if they wanted. The drugs most commonly abused by this group were marijuana and prescription drugs. Just as with alcohol, age 14 was the median age which teens start a dependency with drug abuse. Sixteen percent of the teens could be labeled as drug abusers.
Higher Risk For Certain Teens
This study recognized certain groups that had a higher or lesser risk for early substance abuse. Both males and females had the same rate of risk for substance abuse until the age of 17. In the year between 17 and 18, the rate of males with substance abuse made a notable increase. Hispanic and white teens were more likely than black teens or other ethnic and racial groups to continue alcohol or drug use once exposed to them.
Risking Their Future
Lead author of this study and the director of research at the National Center of Scientific Research in Bordeaux, France, Joel Swendsen, believes this study reveals the risk that today’s youth faces. He stresses that adolescence is a crucial time when many substance abuse problems begin. During the teenage years, children’s brains and bodies are still rapidly developing and are more prone to damage and influence of dependency.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, more than half of America’s 20 million alcoholics began drinking during their teenage years. Swendsen’s study certainly reveals that kids are surrounded by the presence of alcohol and drugs. Many know where and how to acquire these substances. This leaves responsibility not only to them, but to their parents and doctors to be aware of these circumstances and be active on prevention and treatment.