Alcohol and Drugs Affect 33% of Youth Today

November 12, 2012

Alcohol and Drugs Affect 33% of Youth Today

A report published in the Archives of General Psychiatry has identified that more than 32% of American teenagers drink or use drugs. The study was large scale and ran from 2005 until 2008. It was carried out by Li-Tzy Wu, a professor in the department of psychiatry of behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center and colleagues. The 72,000 teenagers involved participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Of the American teenagers using alcohol or drugs, 32% said that they drank alcohol and 19% admitted to using drugs while 15% said that they did both.

The study also found that Native Americans were the ethnic group with the highest incidence of drug or alcohol use. Almost 48% of respondents in this group said that they had done drugs or drink in the past or were presently doing it. The report further identified that of the 8% of teenagers whose behavior was classed as addictive, 15% were Native Americans.

One expert with a point of view is Bruce Goldman. He is director of substance abuse services at Zucker Hillside Hospital of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, in Glen Oaks, New York and he says, “Adolescents continue to use drugs and alcohol in very high numbers at very young ages. The substances they tend to abuse are marijuana, alcohol and, more recently, prescription narcotics as well”.

Goldman acknowledges that the risk of becoming an addict increases if the person was younger when they started to use substances. He adds, “So we want to focus on delaying the onset of use of substances as long as possible, including alcohol”. He also adds that there is help and other options available when he says, “You also want to intervene early, and hopefully forestall or prevent lifelong suffering in their families, themselves. At an early stage, there is a lot of effective treatment that could help young people overcome these issues”.

The study author, Li-Tzy Wu, says of the report, “These findings call for efforts to identify and expand prevention measures that are culturally effective and address the quality and acceptability of treatment for adolescents with substance use problems”.

The report found that the most common drug used by teenagers was marijuana, with 13% of adolescents using it, narcotic painkillers were the next highest with 7% of adolescents using them. Of the changing behaviors noted by drug users Wu says, “Analgesic opioids have replaced inhalants as the second most commonly used drug, and analgesic opioid use disorders comprise the second most prevalent illicit drug use disorder”.

The report also noted that about a quarter of teenage drug or alcohol users could be classed as having an alcohol or drug related disorder when using standard testing procedures. Additionally users of marijuana, cocaine, heroin or sedatives exhibited an increased amount of dependence or abuse relating to the substances used.

The figures for the ethnic groups using alcohol and drugs showed that Native American adolescents were highest in their usage with 20.5%, followed by mixed race teenagers 18.1% and then white youngsters 16.2%. The figures relating to alcohol and drug addiction followed a similar pattern with Native Americans 31.5%, mixed race 25.2%, white 22.9% and Hispanics 21%.

An expert on addiction, Dr. J.C. Garbutt, who is a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reports “these data support the growing concern over the misuse of prescription opioids, with opioids now representing the second most commonly used substance among adolescents after marijuana”.

He explains that the most dangerous issue is opioid abuse. Garbutt makes clear that there is a lack of awareness amongst today’s youth concerning the dangers of opioids. This in turn has led to an increase in opioid related overdose deaths amongst younger people.

Garbutt further points out that the present system should target certain groups when he says, “The ethnic distribution points to the significant problem of substance use in Native Americans, and highlights the need to better address this issue in this population”. He explains that the population is too diverse for a general approach and says, “The diversity of substance use patterns across ethnic groups shows that cultural factors are important in promoting and protecting from using substances. Prevention and treatment programs that make use of culturally related factors may well prove more effective than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach”.

He reports the inequality in the system but is also aware of cultural issues when he says, “There is a disparity in substance abuse services in minority communities. Moreover, there is a paucity of culturally sensitive services. Interventions have to mesh with the norms of the cultural settings”.

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