Is drug and alcohol abuse among young adolescents a cause or an effect of other health and social problems? The point has been much debated but a new study led by Candice Odgers of the University of California, Irvine, favours the former hypothesis — that “drugs are bad for kids” rather than “bad kids do drugs”.

Analysing data on 1000 New Zealanders born in 1972 and 1973, Dr Odgers found that “Even adolescents with no prior history of behavioural problems or family history of substance use problems were at risk for poor health outcomes if they used substances prior to age 15.” She suggests, therefore, that all children, “not only those entering adolescence on an at-risk trajectory, require an adequate dose of prevention”.

The analysis showed that those who used drugs or alcohol before the age of 15 were between 2.4 and 5 times more likely than their peers to have experienced health or social problems later in life. These included dropping out of school, becoming addicted to drugs or an alcoholic, having a criminal conviction, becoming pregnant as a teenager, and testing positive for an STI. Factors such as prior behavioural problems and a broken family increased the likelihood of dropping out of school, but even low-risk children who used drugs or alcohol early remained 2.7 to 3.8 times more likely to have experienced one of the four other problems.

Early use was classified as taking drugs or drinking alcohol on numerous occasions, buying them, or using them at school. This eliminated anyone who drank at home, or who tried the substances on a one-off basis. ~ Times Online, Oct 17


Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet