Report Highlights Teen Substance Dangers
Special Report - August 1, 2011
Nearly half of American high school students currently report smoking, drinking alcohol, or using other drugs, which greatly increases their chances of addiction as adults, according to a new report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA). The report, entitled “Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Concern,” is based on a series of nationally representative online surveys of 1,000 American high school students, 1,000 parents of high school students, and 500 school personnel, as well as focus groups and a review of 2,000 scientific articles or reports. According to a summary of the CASA report, “addiction is a disease with adolescent origins,” and 90 percent of Americans who are addicted to a substance began smoking, drinking, or using drugs as minors. “The underdeveloped teen brain makes it likelier that teens will take risks, including using addictive substances that interfere with brain development, impair judgment and heighten their risk of addiction,” the report explains.
Among the CASA report’s other important findings:
- 75 percent of all high school students have used an addictive substance (tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine). Of this same group, one in five meet the medical criteria of “addicted.”
- 46 percent of all high school students currently use addictive substances (1 in 3 of this group are currently addicted).
- Alcohol is the “preferred substance” for most teens.
The CASA report blames American culture, in part, for the increasing rates of adolescent use of addictive substances. “A wide range of social influences subtly condone or more overtly encourage use, including acceptance of substance use by parents, schools and communities; pervasive advertising of these products; and media portrayals of substance use as benign or glamorous, fun and relaxing,” the report states. “These cultural messages and the widespread availability of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and controlled prescription drugs normalize substance use, undermining the health and futures of our teens.”
In addition to the increased of addiction, the report cites a long list of negative consequences of adolescent drug and alcohol use, including accidents/injuries, unintended pregnancies, depression, reduced academic performance, criminal activity, and even death. CASA estimates that the total federal, state and local government costs for substance use, which the report notes often begins in adolescence, is “at least $468 billion a year,” or nearly $1,500 for every American.
“The combination of adolescence, American culture which glorifies and promotes substance use, and easy access to tobacco, alcohol and other drugs is the wellspring of our current public health epidemic,” said former Congressman Jim Ramstead, chairman of CASA’s National Advisory Commission on Substance Use Among America’s High School Age Teens, in a statement. “We no longer can justify writing off adolescent substance use as bad behavior, as a rite of passage or as kids just being kids. The science is too clear, the facts are too compelling, the consequences are too devastating and the costs are simply too high.”
Teen Pot Use Linked to Depression and Suicide - May 20, 2008
The Dangers of Medical Marijuana - FNC- Jan/Feb 2009
Study Finds Public Schools "Infested" with Drugs - August 22, 2007
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