High Stress Teens Twice as Likely to Smoke, Get Drunk, Use Illegal Drugs
WASHINGTON, August 19, 2003 – The risk that teens will smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs increases sharply if they are highly stressed, frequently bored or have substantial amounts of spending money, according to The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VIII: Teens and Parents, an annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. This was the first time in its eight-year history that the survey measured the impact of these characteristics on the likelihood of teen substance abuse.
Among CASA’s survey findings:
· High stress teens are twice as likely as low stress teens to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs.
· Often bored teens are 50 percent likelier than not often bored teens to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs.
· Teens with $25 or more a week in spending money are nearly twice as likely as teens with less to smoke, drink and use illegal drugs, and more than twice as likely to get drunk.
· Teens exhibiting two or three of these characteristics are at more than three times the risk of substance abuse as those exhibiting none of these characteristics.
· More than half the nation’s 12-to-17 year olds (52 percent) are at greater risk of substance abuse because of high stress, frequent boredom, too much spending money, or some combination of these characteristics.
“High stress, frequent boredom and too much spending money are a catastrophic combination for many American teens,” said CASA Chairman and President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr. “But it is a catastrophe that can be avoided through parental engagement. Parents must be sensitive to the stress in their children’s lives, understand why they are bored and limit their spending money.”
Other findings of this year’s survey:
· More than 5 million 12-to-17 year olds (20 percent) can buy marijuana in an hour or less; another 5 million (19 percent) can buy marijuana within a day.
· The proportion of teens that consider beer easier to buy than cigarettes or marijuana is up 80 percent from 2000 (18 percent vs. 10 percent).
· For the first time in the survey’s eight-year history, teens are as concerned about social and academic pressures as they are about drugs.
· Teens at schools with more than 1,200 students are twice as likely as teens at schools with less than 800 students to be at high risk of substance abuse (25 percent vs. 12 percent).
“Two of the most common questions regarding teen drug use and addiction are: how can it happen to my child, and how can it happen to young boys or girls who seem to be typical teens?” said Califano. “These questions are often asked where the drug-abusing teen does not exhibit one of the usual warning signs of drug abuse – being physically or sexually abused, having a learning disability or eating disorder, suffering from serious depression or another mental health condition. CASA’s teen survey suggests that for many teens, the answers to these questions can be found in high stress, frequent boredom and too much spending money.”
The proportion of students who say that drugs are used, kept or sold at their high schools is up 18 percent over 2002 (from 44 to 52 percent). “This is a significant deterioration from last year, when most high school students attended drug free schools,” Califano observed. As in previous years Catholic and other religious middle and high schools are likelier to be drug free than are public schools (78 percent vs. 58 percent). For the first time there was a large enough sample of students from secular private schools to assess their status: 76 percent of such schools are drug free. Girls vs. Boys The incidence of high stress was greater among girls than boys, with nearly one in three girls saying they were highly stressed compared to fewer than one in four boys. And while girls and boys are equally likely to have more than $50 a week in spending money, girls with this much spending money are likelier than boys to smoke, drink, get drunk and use marijuana.
Parents are likelier than teens to view teen drug use as a fait accompli. More than four out of 10 parents said teens are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to try drugs, compared to only one of 10 teens. Teens whose parents believe that future drug use is “very likely” are more than three times likelier to become substance abusers than teens whose parents say future drug use is “not likely at all.” More than half of parents whose children attend schools where drugs are used, kept or sold would not send their teen to a drug-free school if they could. Asked why, these parents answer: no schools are drug free (54 percent), kids should make their own choices (22 percent), drugs are not a problem (11 percent), and the child likes his or her school (seven percent).
“Many parents think they have little power over their teens’ substance use and a disturbing number view drugs in schools as a fact of life they are powerless to stop,” noted Mr. Califano. “How parents act, how much pressure they put on school administrators to get drugs out of their teens’ schools, their attitudes about drugs, and how engaged they are in their children’s lives will have enormous influence over their teens’ substance use. Parent Power is the most underutilized weapon in efforts to curb teen substance abuse.”
Other Key Findings
· Fewer teens are associating with peers who use substances: 56 percent have no friends who regularly drink, up from 52 percent in 2002; 68 percent have no friends who use marijuana, up from 62 percent in 2002; 70 percent have no friends who smoke cigarettes, up from 56 percent in 2002.
· Teens who attend religious services at least once a week are at significantly lower risk of substance abuse.
· The average age of first use is 12 years 2 months for alcohol, 12 ½ for cigarettes and 13 years 11 months for marijuana.
· Between the ages of 12 and 17, the likelihood that a teen will smoke, drink or use illegal drugs increases more than seven times and the percentage of teens with close friends who use marijuana jumps 14 times.
QEV Analytics conducted The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VIII: Teens and Parents for CASA from March 30 to June 14, 2003. The firm interviewed at home by telephone 1,987 teens aged 12 through 17 and 504 parents, 403 of whom were parents of interviewed teens. Sampling error is +/- 2.2 percent for teens and +/- 4.4 percent for parents.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society.
CASA's missions are to: inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace shame and despair with hope.
With a staff of more than 70 professionals, CASA has conducted demonstration projects at 69 sites in 40 cities and 22 states focused on children, families and schools, and has been testing the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment, monitoring individuals in numerous programs and drug courts in several states.
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Parent Power: Five Ways Parents Can Reduce Teen Risk
1. Be sensitive to the stress in your children’s lives and help them cope.
2. Understand when and why your children are bored and help relieve their boredom.
3. Limit the amount of money your children have to spend and monitor how that money is spent.
4. Know who your children’s friends are.
5. Be engaged in your children’s lives: help them with their homework, attend their sports events, participate in activities together, and talk to them about drugs.