Young People and Drugs

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The Drug Policy Alliance has a series of resources for educators and parents, including a drug education curriculum and tips for talking to teens about drugs.

Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse has been working since the early 1980s to provide honest, effective drug education for young people.

Page last updated June 10, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

61. Drug-Related ER Visits

"Patients aged 20 or younger accounted for 18.8 percent (922,953 visits) of all drug-related ED visits in 2010. About one half (45.3 percent, or 417,856 visits) of these visits involved drug misuse or abuse, representing a rate of 476.1 ED visits per 100,000 population aged 20 or younger."

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. "The DAWN Report: Highlights of the 2010 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Findings on Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits," (Rockville, MD: July 2, 2012), p. 2.
http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k1...

62. Early Initiation of Substance Use

“When initiation of substance use occurs in preadolescence or early in adolescence, the risk of addiction is magnified.8 CASA’s analysis of national data finds that individuals‡ who first used any addictive substance before age 15 are six and a half times as likely to have a substance use disorder as those who did not use any addictive substance until age 21 or older (28.1 percent vs. 4.3 percent).”

"Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem," The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (New York, NY: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, June 2011), p. 38
http://www.casacolumbia.org...

63. Delay in Onset of Substance Use

“Each year that the onset of substance use is delayed until the mid-20s - about the time when the human brain is more fully developed10 — the risk of developing a substance use disorder is reduced.11 Among people who used any of these substances before age 18, one in four have a substance disorder, compared with one in 25 who started to smoke, drink or use other drugs at age 21 or later.”12

Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem," The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (New York, NY: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, June 2011), p. 39.
http://www.casacolumbia.org/up...

64. Inhalants

"In 2011, there were 719,000 persons aged 12 or older who had used inhalants for the first time within the past 12 months, which was lower than the numbers in prior years from 2002 to 2005 (ranging from 849,000 to 877,000). An estimated 67.1 percent of past year initiates of inhalants in 2011 were under age 18 when they first used. The average age at first use among recent initiates aged 12 to 49 was similar in 2010 and 2011 (16.3 and 16.4 years, respectively)."

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-44, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 12-4713. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2012, p. 58.
http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSD...

65. Prevalence of Inhalant Use Among US Youth

"Inhalants rank second among the illicit drugs in lifetime prevalence for 8th graders (8.9%) and third for 10th graders (6.1%); but they rank seventh for 12th graders (4.9%). Inhalants also rank second-highest in 30-day prevalence among the illicit drugs for 8th (2.1%) and third (1.1%) among 10th graders, but they rank much lower for 12th graders (0.8%). Note that the youngest respondents report the highest levels of use; this is the only class of drugs for which current use declines with age during adolescence.3"

3: The results also indicate declining lifetime inhalant prevalence at higher grades, which could be due to various factors. There might be lower lifetime prevalence at older ages because the eventual school dropout segment is included only in the lower grades. If those who will become dropouts are unusually likely to use inhalants, lifetime use rates could decline with grade level. That would lead to a relatively stable difference between the grades in lifetime use (because dropout rates have been fairly stable in recent years); however, the degree of difference has changed some over time, with larger differences emerging in the mid-1990s. Another possible factor is changing validity of reporting with age; but in order to account for the trend data, one would have to hypothesize that this tendency became stronger in the 1990s, and we have no reason to believe that it did. Cohort differences may be a factor, but cannot completely explain the large changes in lifetime prevalence. It seems likely that all of these factors contribute to the differences observed in the retrospective reporting by different ages, and possibly some additional factors as well.

Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., & Patrick, M. E. (2018). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2017: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Available at
http://monitoringthefuture.org...
http://monitoringthefuture.org...

66. Inhalants

"• The percentage of adolescents (i.e., youths aged 12 to 17) who used inhalants in the past year was lower in 2007 (3.9 percent) than in 2003, 2004, and 2005 (4.5, 4.6, and 4.5 percent, respectively)
"• Among adolescents who used inhalants for the first time in the past year (i.e., past year initiates), the rate of use of nitrous oxide or “whippits” declined between 2002 and 2007 among both genders (males: 40.2 to 20.2 percent; females: 22.3 to 12.2 percent)
"• In 2007, 17.2 percent of adolescents who initiated illicit drug use during the past year indicated that inhalants were the first drug that they used; this rate remained relatively stable between 2002 and 2007
(Note: "Inhalants" are defined as: "Aerosol sprays other than spray paint include products such as aerosol air fresheners, aerosol spray, and aerosol cleaning products (e.g., dusting sprays, furniture polish). The aerosol propellants in these products are commonly chlorofluorocarbons. By contrast, nitrous oxide is used as a propellant for whipped cream and is available in 2-inch tapered cylinders called “whippits” that are used to pressurize home whipped-cream charging bottles.")

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (March 16, 2009). "The NSDUH Report: Trends in Adolescent Inhalant Use: 2002 to 2007." Rockville, MD, pp. 1 and 3.
http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/inha...

67. Impact on Young People of Incarceration of Their Fathers

"Paternal incarceration, however, was found associated with a greater number of health outcomes than maternal incarceration. Also, paternal incarceration was found to be associated with both physical and mental health problems, whereas maternal incarceration was found associated only with poor mental health.
"For paternal incarceration, with the exception of HIV/AIDS, larger associations were found for mental health as compared with physical health outcomes. Caution should be taken in understanding the significance of the finding related to HIV/AIDS, given its low overall sample prevalence and wide CI. If this is a true association, it may be related to paternal HIV/AIDS status and other risk factors related to father absence. Given the high correlation between HIV/AIDS and incarceration, increased odds of HIV/AIDS in offspring could come from perinatal transmission. However, social factors may also explain this relationship."

Rosalyn D. Lee, Xiangming Fang and Feijun Luo, "The Impact of Parental Incarceration on the Physical and Mental Health of Young Adults." Pediatrics 2013;131;e1188; originally published online March 18, 2013; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-0627.
http://pediatrics.aappublicati...
http://pediatrics.aappublicati...

68. Physical and Mental Health Impact of Parental Incarceration on Their Children

"As shown in Table 2, bivariate analyses indicate PI [Parental Incarceration] was significantly associated with 8 of the 16 health conditions (heart disease, asthma, migraines, depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD], HIV/AIDS, and fair/poor health). With the exception of heart disease and HIV/AIDS, individuals who reported neither parent had an incarceration history had the lowest prevalence rates of these 8 health conditions. Individuals who reported father incarceration only had the highest prevalence rates of 3 of the 8 health conditions (heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and fair/poor health); whereas individuals who reported mother incarceration only were highest on 2 conditions (depression and anxiety) and individuals who reported incarceration of both parents were highest on 3 conditions (asthma, migraine, and PTSD)."

Rosalyn D. Lee, Xiangming Fang and Feijun Luo, "The Impact of Parental Incarceration on the Physical and Mental Health of Young Adults." Pediatrics 2013;131;e1188; originally published online March 18, 2013; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-0627.
http://pediatrics.aappublicati...
http://pediatrics.aappublicati...

69. Alcohol Use v Marijuana Use - US Youth and "The Displacement Hypothesis"

"Alcohol and marijuana are the two most commonly used substances by teenagers to get high, and a question that is often asked is to what extent does change in one lead to a change in the other. If the substances co-vary negatively (an increase in one is accompanied by a decrease in the other) they are said to be substitutes; if they co-vary positively, they are said to be complements. Note that there is no evidence that the 13-year decline in marijuana use observed between 1979 and 1992 led to any accompanying increase in alcohol use; in fact, through 1992 there was some parallel decline in annual, monthly, and daily alcohol use, as well as in occasions of heavy drinking among 12th graders, suggesting that the two substances are complements. Earlier, when marijuana use increased in the late 1970s, alcohol use also increased. As marijuana use increased again in the 1990s, alcohol use again increased with it, although not as sharply. In sum, there has been little evidence from MTF over the years that supports what we have termed 'the displacement hypothesis,' which asserts that an increase in marijuana use will somehow lead to a decline in alcohol use, or vice versa.8 Instead, both substances appear to move more in harmony, perhaps both reflecting changes in a more general construct, such as the tendency to use psychoactive substances, whether licit or illicit, or in the frequency with which teens party. However, with alcohol use decreasing and marijuana use increasing over the past few years, it is possible that the displacement hypothesis is gaining some support. As a number of states are changing their policies regarding marijuana, our continued monitoring will provide the needed evidence concerning whether alcohol and marijuana are substitutes or complements."

Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2015). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2014: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, pp. 161-162.
http://monitoringthefuture.org...
http://monitoringthefuture.org...

70. Reasons for Non-Prescription Use of Prescription Opioids by US High School Seniors

"Approximately 12.3% of the respondents -- high school seniors in the United States -- reported lifetime nonmedical use of prescription opioids and 8.0% reported past-year nonmedical use. Table 1 shows the prevalence of motives for nonmedical use of prescription opioids among high school seniors in the United States. The leading motives included 'to relax or relieve tension' (56.4%), 'to feel good or get high' (53.5%), 'to experiment-see what it's like' (52.4%), 'to relieve physical pain' (44.8%), and 'to have a good time with friends' (29.5%).

Sean Esteban McCabe, Phd, et al., "Motives for Nonmedical Use of Prescription Opioids among High School Seniors in the United States: Self-Treatment and Beyond," Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 2009 August; 163(8): 739-744. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.120.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu...
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm...

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