It’s no secret that the abuse of alcohol an other drugs is a problem among adolescents and teenagers in the United States. But a study that appears in the April edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry has revealed that the problem may be much worse than many people realize.

The study, which was led by Joel Swendsen, Ph.D., of the University of Bordeaux, France, involved an analysis of more than 10,000 U.S. youth between the ages of 13 and 18.

An April 2 ScienceDaily article provided the following information about the research team’s findings:

By late adolescence, 78.2 percent of teenagers reported having consumed alcohol; 47.1 percent having reached regular drinking levels of at least 12 drinks within a year; and 15.1 percent having met the criteria for lifetime abuse. The opportunity to use illicit drugs was reported by 81.4 percent of the oldest adolescents, drug use by 42.5 percent and drug abuse by 16.4 percent. …

The median age at onset was 14 years old for regular alcohol use or abuse with or without dependence; 14 years old for drug abuse with dependence; and 15 years old for drug abuse without dependence.

The researchers found not significant difference in the rate of alcohol abuse between boys and girls in the 13-16 age group. However, among 17- and 18-year-olds, the abuse of alcohol and other drugs was found to be much more common among boys than girls.

In addition to raising concerns about the troubling prevalence of adolescent and teen substance abuse in the United States, the University of Bordeaux study is also cause for worry about the young age at which the substance abuse begins. As was discussed last week on this blog, adolescents who start drinking before age 15 are at much greater risk for developing alcoholism later in life.

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Photo at top of post by Mary R. Vogt.