Girls More 'Vulnerable' to Addiction; Study Says Drug Programs Must Weigh Sex Differences

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Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Girls and young women become addicted to drugs, tobacco and alcohol differently than males and would be better served by treatment programs that understand these sex differences, says a study released this week by a New York research group.

"Girls get hooked faster, they get hooked using lesser amounts of alcohol and drugs and cocaine, and they suffer the consequences faster and more severely," said Joseph A. Califano Jr., chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

Most substance-abuse prevention programs have been developed "without regard for gender, but often with males in mind," Mr. Califano said. "We now know that girls are different than boys - let's recognize it and let's help them."

Columba Bush, wife of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, attended a Capitol Hill event on Tuesday to release CASA's three-year study on substance abuse of girls ages 8 to 22.

"If we all understand the special characteristics that lead girls to use substances, if we all realize how much more vulnerable girls are to becoming addicted and to the devastating consequences of addiction, we can save millions of girls and young women from the agony of addiction," Mrs. Bush said.

The Bushes' adult daughter, Noelle, has had a public struggle with drug addiction and is in treatment.

"It's a good study. It backs up everything we've been doing for years," said Elayne Bennett, founder of the national Best Friends program, which has steered tens of thousands of girls away from premarital sex, drugs, smoking and drinking. …