Adolescent Substance Use:America’s #1 Public Health Problem
Report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA)
CASA’s new national study declares teen smoking, drinking, misusing prescription drugs and using illegal drugs a public health problem of epidemic proportions. The report reviews current knowledge of the science of addiction as a complex brain disease with origins in adolescence, documents how adolescence is the critical period for the initiation of substance use, and reveals the enormous and costly health and social consequences of teen substance use.
The study looks at how American culture increases the risk that teens will use addictive substances and how the messages sent by adults, and glamorized by the tobacco and alcohol industries and the media, normalize substance use and undermine the health and futures of our teens.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE REPORT:
- 90 percent of Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18.
- 1 in 4 Americans who began using any addictive substance before age 18 developed an addiction, compared to 1 in 25 Americans who started using at age 21 or older.
- 75 percent of all high school students have used addictive substances including tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine; 1 in 5 of them meets the medical criteria for addiction.
- 46 percent of all high school students currently use addictive substances; 1 in 3 of them meets the medical criteria for addiction.
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The CASA Study
This report documents the nature and origin of the largest preventable--and most costly--health problem in America.
It reveals the latest information about how substance use and addiction affect the teen brain and neurochemistry; lays out the extent of the problem of teen substance use and addiction; and describes the health, safety and social consequences. It examines the broad factors within American culture that drive adolescent substance use and explores the range of individual factors that compounds these risks for many vulnerable teens. It summarizes what research demonstrates can be done to prevent and reduce the problem; describes the chasm between this knowledge and what health care providers, parents, schools, communities and policymakers are actually doing; and explores the barriers to bridging this gap and implementing effective substance use prevention and control policies. Finally, it provides concrete and evidence-based recommendations for health care professionals, parents, policymakers, educators, the media, researchers and teens themselves to act in the face of the body of knowledge presented in this report.
Despite considerable declines in overall reported rates of current substance use since 1999,
progress appears to have stalled and rates may once again be on the rise. The use of smokeless tobacco has been increasing since 2003.
Declines in past 30 day cigarette smoking are slowing significantly, and national data suggest
that current use of marijuana and controlled prescription drugs may be inching up.
The overall decline in substance use rates also may obfuscate dangerous patterns of substance use; for example, high school students drink more drinks when they drink (4.9 drinks per day) than any other age group, including 18-25 year olds (4.4 drinks per day).
While most teens responding to CASA’s survey of high school students conducted for this study report that they believe substance use to be very dangerous, almost half of them are current users.
Further, a quarter of them (24.7 percent) see marijuana as a harmless drug a 16.9 percent think of it as a medicine. Teens who hold favorable views of the benefits of substance use--such as being cool or popular weight control, self-medication, stress relief or coping--are more likely to smoke, drink and us other drugs than those who hold less favorable beliefs or stronger perceptions than those who hold less favorable beliefs or stronger perceptions of risk