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One Third of Teenagers Drink, One Sixth Smoke Cigarettes

By Lucy Belnora
News | June 4, 2010

SALINA, Kan. - In the United States, 8 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 drank alcohol in the past year, around one fifth used an illicit drug, and 4 million teens under age 18 smoked cigarettes.

A new report gives insight into a day in the life of American adolescents. The study, A Day in the Life of American Adolescents: Substance Use Facts Update, presents a stark picture of the daily toll substance abuse takes on America's youth. It presents facts about adolescent substance use, including initiation, receipt of treatment, and emergency department visits for substance use "on an average day."

Among the report's major findings is that on any given day, 563,000 adolescents used marijuana, nearly 37,000 used inhalants, 24,000 used hallucinogens, 16,000 used cocaine and 2,800 used heroin.

The report, which highlights the substance abuse behavior and addiction treatment activities that occur among adolescents on an average day, draws on national surveys conducted and analyzed by SAMHSA's Office of Applied Studies.

"This report is a wake up call about the extent to which our nation's youth engage in risky behavior by using illegal and potentially dangerous substances everyday," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. "Parents, families and people working in the public health and public safety professions can prevent substance abuse and promote emotional health. In the long run our efforts can improve health status and lower costs to families, businesses and governments."

On just an average day, 508,000 adolescents aged 12-17 in the United States drink alcohol; 641,000 use illicit drugs; and more than 1 million smoke cigarettes.

"The burden of substance abuse casts a tragic shadow on the lives of far too many young people," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard K. Koh. "We must meet this public health challenge head on and do everything we can to promote prevention and treatment programs for youth that will ensure the overall health, success and well-being of our nation's next generation."

The report also sheds light on how many adolescents used illegal substances for the first time. On an average day in 2008:

  • Approximately 7,500 adolescents drank alcohol for the first time;
  • Approximately 4,360 adolescents used an illicit drug for the first time;
  • Around 3,900 adolescents smoked cigarettes for the first time;
  • Nearly 3,700 adolescents used marijuana for the first time; and
  • Approximately 2,500 adolescents abused pain relievers for the first time.

In addition, the report also highlights how many people under age 18 were receiving treatment for a substance abuse problem during an average day in 2008. These numbers included:

  • Over 76,000 in outpatient treatment;
  • More than 9,000 in non-hospital residential treatment; and
  • Over 700 in hospital inpatient treatment.

The study showed that in just one year, there were about a quarter of a million drug-related emergency hospital visits among adolescents of which 170,000 visits involved the use of illicit drugs, alcohol or intentional misuse or abuse of pharmaceuticals. On an average day in 2008:

  • 151 visits involved alcohol;
  • 129 involved marijuana; and
  • 86 involved prescription or nonprescription pain relievers.


1 Comment

Thank you for this post. I am an alcoholic/addict who has been sober for 7 years. I know that my addictions began as a teenager. Science has proven that addiction can be particularly fierce at this age, as the brain is still developing. Able to learn a lot at a faster pace than a fully developed, adult brain. Also able to learn addictive behaviors at a faster pace. Add to this the low self-esteem found in many young people, plus a little bit of peer pressure and sky rocketing hormones...fertile grounds for unhealthy behaviors that can lead to the lifelong disease of alcoholism and drug addiction.

Here is a story from NPR about the teenage brain...
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124119468


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