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Home > Research Articles > Teen Substance Abuse Factors Examined

Associated Press

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Associated Press - August 20, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) - A survey of American children and parents released Tuesday found a mix of three ingredients in abundance for many kids can lead to substance abuse: boredom, stress and extra money.

The annual study by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse also found students attending smaller schools or religious schools are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Joseph Califano Jr., the center's chairman and president, said 13.8 million teens - about 55 percent of all kids - are at moderate or high risk of substance abuse.

``Parental engagement in their child's life is the best protection mom and dad can provide,'' he said.

The study found that children ages 12 to 17 who are frequently bored are 50 percent more likely to smoke, drink, get drunk or use illegal drugs. And kids with $25 or more a week in spending money are nearly twice as likely to smoke, drink or use drugs as children with less money.

Anxiety is another risk factor. The study found that youngsters who said they're highly stressed are twice as likely as low-stress kids to smoke, drink or use drugs.

High stress was experienced more among girls more than boys, with nearly one in three girls saying they were highly stressed compared with fewer than one in four boys. One possible factor is social pressure for girls to have sex, researchers said.

Charles Curie, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said his agency has found similar risk factors among American youth.

He said the best thing parents can do to steer their kids away from drugs and alcohol is to talk to them and stay involved in their lives. It's also important, he said, to know their children's friends.

But Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Bruce Mirken said the study offered nothing new and doesn't address the real problems, such as what he called the ``failed policy'' of marijuana prohibition.

``CASA is running headlong from the important implications of their survey and stressing trivia. That stress and boredom might increase drug use is about as shocking as warm weather in the summer,'' said Mirken. ``Why aren't they talking about the fact that despite decades of 'just say no' propaganda and millions of marijuana arrests, teens are still saying that marijuana is easier to buy than beer?''

For the first time in the survey's eight-year history, young people said they are as concerned about social and academic pressures as they are about drugs. In the past, Califano said, drugs were by far the No. 1 pressure on kids.

There was some encouraging news. The study found that 56 percent of those surveyed have no friends who regularly drink, up from 52 percent in 2002. Nearly 70 percent have no friends who use marijuana.

Among the study's other findings:

-The average age of first use of alcohol is about 12, while cigarettes is 121/2 and marijuana is almost 14.

-More than 5 million children ages 12 to 17, or 20 percent, can buy marijuana in an hour or less. Another 5 million can buy it within a day.

-Kids at schools with more than 1,200 students are twice as likely as those attending schools with fewer than 800 students to be at high risk for substance abuse.

QEV Analytics surveyed 1,987 children ages 12 to 17 and 504 parents, 403 of whom were parents of interviewed kids. They were interviewed from March 30 to June 14. The margin of error was plus or minus 2 percentage points for children and plus or minus 4 percentage points for parents.

On the Net:

National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse: http://www.casacolumbia.org

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.