Report finds teen substance abuse is top public health problem in US

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Thursday, June 30, 2011

US teens increasingly abuse tobacco, among other drugs.
Image: Geierunited.

A report issued Wednesday by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University finds the top public health problem in the United States is teen drug abuse, including the use of alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, marijuana and other controlled substances.

According to the study's authors, "The study looks at how American culture increases the risk that teens will use addictive substances and how the messages sent by adults, and glamorized by the tobacco and alcohol industries and the media, normalize substance use and undermine the health and futures of our teens."

Cquote1.svg Addiction is a disease that in most cases begins in adolescence ... We rightfully worry about other teen health problems like obesity, depression or bullying, but we turn a blind eye to a more common and deadly epidemic that we can in fact prevent. Cquote2.svg

—Susan Foster, CASA vice president

CASA found that 90% of adults who have addictive disorders started using substances before the age of 18. In comparison, only 4% of Americans who abuse as adults started using these drugs when 21 or older.

Further, the consumption of these substances by American teens is rising. Currently almost half of American high school students smoke, drink alcohol or use other drugs, according to the study, and 1 in 5 meet the medical criteria for addiction. Seventy-five percent of all high school students have used addictive substances including tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine at some point. Over 65% have used more than one.

The researchers found social factors related to the risk of American teens use of addictive substances included parental, community and school acceptance of these substances and the positive media portrayals of drug use as harmless, fun and attractive. Advertising of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes also contributes to the positive image of drug use.

The researchers used online surveys filled out by 1,000 high school students, 1,000 parents of high school students, 500 educators, as well as information from five focus groups and reviews of 2,000 scientific articles and reports, according to US News.

"Addiction is a disease that in most cases begins in adolescence, so preventing or delaying teens from using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs for as long as possible is crucial to their health and safety," said Susan Foster, CASA's vice president in a news release. "We rightfully worry about other teen health problems like obesity, depression or bullying, but we turn a blind eye to a more common and deadly epidemic that we can in fact prevent."

The study's authors pointed out that the teenage brain is not fully developed and the use of drugs during the teenage years hampers further development of the brain, impairs judgment and increases the risk of addiction as an adult. Heavy substance abuse harms the developing brain far more than the already developed adult brain. They concluded their data shows that adolescence is the critical age period for the onset of substance abuse and its repercussions.


Sources

Bookmark-new.svg