Alcohol has been found to be the most widely used substance among teens. They try it earlier than marijuana and tobacco, according to data from Monitoring the Future, an annual survey of teen substance abuse.
Researchers from Texas A&M and the University of Florida analyzed the data from the survey to see if there were patterns in substance abuse among teenagers. The survey was taken by over 2,800 high school seniors in the U.S. They aimed to find out which substances teenagers used first. If your son or daughter needs drug and alcohol rehab in Wilmington NC, keep reading to see how Legacy can help.
Teens and Drinking Alcohol
In the past, many have called marijuana the gateway drug, meaning that first time users often try it before they move on to harder substances. But these new findings show that most try alcohol before they try anything else.
Among seniors in high school, 54 percent have tried alcohol, 32 percent have tried tobacco and only 14 percent have tried marijuana. Alcohol is not only the most commonly used, it is used first in the succession of the three substances. It also found that they were less likely to try marijuana before tobacco, too. Some have deemed alcohol the new “gateway drug.”
While it seems logical that easy access to alcohol and tobacco would be the reason why teens try them first, researchers see marijuana as being almost as widely available.
The study also revealed that teens who started drinking earlier – some as early as sixth grade – had a greater risk of using illicit substances later in life. They also tend to use them more frequently. In comparison, teenagers who didn’t try alcohol until later in high school went on to try fewer other substances. They did not compare tobacco and marijuana because the numbers were low.
Researchers said, “Overall, early onset substance initiation, whether that is alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, exerts a powerful influence over future health risk behaviors.”
However, they also stressed that this study was merely observational and that it can’t determine causality from their findings. Other factors can influence when teenagers experiment with alcohol, tobacco and drugs, including genetics, their environment and increased pressure from peers.
For instance, in another study about teens and the use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, findings reported that teens who spend time with peers unsupervised have a higher likelihood of trying those substances. Teens involved in sports or with part-time jobs were more likely to drink but less likely to use marijuana. Teens with jobs were more often tobacco smokers over teens who played sports.
Overall, findings showed that teenagers with no structure and a lot of free time could be at a higher risk of trying alcohol, tobacco or marijuana. Again, researchers in this study noted that they can’t prove cause and effect. But they hope the results can be a warning to parents to consider their teen’s habits.
The findings of both reports reiterates what the first report concludes. They said it is important to screen for substance abuse, and in some cases, even among elementary and middle school students.
They add, “In addition, school prevention programs should begin in elementary school (third grade) and target alcohol use.”
Alternative Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Wilmington NC | Legacy Freedom
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