Adolescent Substance Abuse Articles
By ASK Staff
Adolescents who drink or use drugs before they turn 15 are more likely to fail in school, become dependent on drugs or alcohol, be convicted of a crime, contract a sexually transmitted disease, and face an unwanted pregnancy. This is true whether they come from "good" homes or abusive ones.
Duke University psychologists Dr. Avshalom Caspi and Terri Moffitt worked with colleagues in New Zealand and Britain to analyze data on 1,000 New Zealanders from birth through age 32. Half of the subjects in the study were from stable backgrounds, and half came from families with histories of alcoholism, drug abuse, and crime. The study focused on preteens who regularly abused drug or alcohol, not those who were merely experimenting a few times.
The ones without risk factors who used drugs and alcohol prior to age 15 were 3.6 times more likely to be drug dependent by age 32. A third of the females in this group were pregnant before age 21.
Among the girls from problematical backgrounds who used drugs and alcohol before age 15, two-thirds got pregnant before age 21.
Both groups had more health problems as adults.
"These findings challenge certain perceptions regarding teens and drug and alcohol use," said Professor Dan Nagin, one of the study's co-authors. "For example, the idea that we shouldn't be concerned when teens abuse drugs and alcohol, because the kids are just experimenting. It's clear from this data that early exposure to drugs and alcohol can make even a good kid veer off on a bad trajectory."
The study appeared in the journal Psychological Science.