Teenage Drug and Alcohol use by the Numbers

teen drug abuseNew statistics indicate that a majority of teenagers have used alcohol or drugs in the recent past. The actual numbers may be higher than you think.Being a teenage kid can be difficult. The pressures of growing into an adult body while at the same time facing school and the influence of peer groups leads to stress and anxiety for many. As reported in this blog it is thought that one in four young adults suffer at some point from depression, but what of drug and alcohol use among teens?

A study recently published in the April edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry aimed to answer this exact question. They found that amongst US teens a majority have used alcohol or drugs recently and a worryingly high number reported having struggled with abusing said substances. These results, when viewed with the understanding that drug and alcohol use early in life can be a strong indicator of abuse later in life, should raise alarm amongst both parents and policy-makers.

The study was conducted by a team led by Joel Swendsen Ph.D of the University of Bordeaux. They surveyed over 10,000 teen aged between 13 and 18 in the USA. The focus of their research was to determine the age of onset, prevalence and sociodemographic factors that influenced alcohol and drug use by teens.

The simple numbers that came as a result of their survey are as follows. Just over 78% reported having consumed alcohol with 47% having drunk at least twelve drinks in the past year. Of these 15.1% met the criteria for potential for lifetime abuse. Regarding drug use, 42.5% reported having used drugs and of these 16.4% indicated drug abuse.

The study also concluded that 14 is the median age for frequent alcohol use and that 15 is the similar age for drugs. As the age of the survey respondents increased so did the likelihood of using drugs and/or alcohol. Simply put, an 18 year old was more likely to have used alcohol or drugs than a 14 year old.

While it should not come as a surprise to anyone that teenagers are prone to experimenting with drugs and alcohol the fact that these numbers are so high should be a warning sign. One should note that not all of these kids are going to grow up to become alcoholics or drug addicts. Many will mature with time and move away naturally from the dangerous experimentation of youth. That said, it is important for parents and educators to reinforce the dangers that alcohol and illegal substances can have towards a kids health and future prospects.

The researchers explained their findings by saying, “Because the early onset of substance use is a significant predictor of substance use behaviour and disorders in a lifespan, the public health implications of the current findings are far reaching... The prevention of both alcohol and illicit drug abuse requires strategies that target early adolescence and take into account the highly differential influence that population-based factors may exert by stage of substance use.”

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