Teen Substance Abuse a Harbinger of Addiction

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), June 30, 2011 | Go to article overview

Teen Substance Abuse a Harbinger of Addiction


Byline: Oliver Renick Bloomberg News

NEW YORK Ninety percent of American alcoholics and drug addicts began their habits before age 18, making adolescent substance abuse the nations biggest public health problem, researchers say.

Efforts in the past decade that curbed underage drinking and drug usage may be losing their effect, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York. While drug usage overall by teens has declined since 1999, one in eight high school students is addicted to alcohol or another drug, said Susan Foster, the lead author of the report.

Substance use contributes to unintentional injury, homicide and suicide, the top three causes of adolescent death, the study found. Juvenile justice costs for substance-related cases were at least $14 billion. According to the study, the federal government and states spent $207.2 billion in 2005 on health-care costs for substance use and addiction, a problem the researchers say originates in the teen years.

"Its shocking to see how many high school students meet clinical definitions for an addictive disease," Foster, vice president and director of policy research and analysis for the addiction center, said in an interview.

Researchers analyzed data from surveys of students, parents, school personnel, health officials, scientific articles and professional interviews. Ten million high-school students, or 76 percent, say they have used addictive substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine, the report found. Six percent of those kids seek treatment, Foster said.

Alcohol was the preferred substance among high school students, researchers found, with 73 percent saying they have drunk alcohol at least once. Cigarettes are the second-most popular at 46 percent, and 65 percent of students said they have used more than one substance.

The report found the number of teens using smokeless tobacco increased to 8. …

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Teen Substance Abuse a Harbinger of Addiction
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