Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Girls, Young Women More Vulnerable to Addiction. (Clear Evidence That 'Gender Matters')

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Girls, Young Women More Vulnerable to Addiction. (Clear Evidence That 'Gender Matters')

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Girls and young women become addicted to drugs more easily than males and suffer more devastating consequences, and the nation's public health infrastructure needs to be overhauled to reflect that fact, former Health and Human Services Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. said at a press conference sponsored by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Mr. Califano, who served as secretary during the Carter administration, presented the results of a 3-year study showing that girls and women aged 8-22 are more easily addicted to drugs, more influenced to abuse drugs and alcohol, and more likely to attempt suicide after drug use than are boys and men.

"We have got to have prevention targeted at the problems girls have," said Mr. Califano, who is now president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), New York.

The study should also remind physicians to pay special attention to screening adolescent girls for substance abuse problems, Mr. Califano told this newspaper.

"Doctors should be screening for risk factors, but it's hard to [spend time] asking about alcohol, depression, or substance abuse. It isn't being done."

Researchers surveyed 1,220 girls at various life transitions: going from elementary to middle school, going from middle school to high school, going from high school to college, and leaving college to enter the workforce.

They also convened five focus groups of preadolescent girls and their parents. Researchers analyzed other study data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, CASA's own Annual National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse, and more than 1,000 books and articles.

The study was sponsored by an unrestricted grant provided by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. Researchers found that females were more likely than males to use substances to lose weight, relieve stress, improve their mood, increase confidence, reduce their inhibitions, or decrease boredom.

The researchers reported that substance-abusing females were more likely to come from troubled families than substance-abusing males, and that good parent-child relationships were more protective for females than for males with respect to alcohol and drug use.

"This cries out for a complete overhaul of public health education," Mr. …

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