A new, nationwide study is raising concerns by labeling teen substance abuse a public health threat. NY1's Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
According to the latest research from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, or CASA at Columbia University, when it comes to struggles with teen smoking, prescription drug abuse, drinking, and illegal drugs, we've got a major problem on our hands. A new report shows 75 percent of all high school students have tried out addictive substances, and about half are currently using.
"Adolescent substance use is the number one public health problem in America whether you major it by prevalence or consequences or cost. One thing we found from this report that's very important for parents or health care providers to understand is that nine out of 10 people who have addictive disorders whether it is tobacco, alcohol or prescription drugs, started using these substances when they were under the age of 18," said CASA Vice President and Director of Policy Research Susan Foster.
Looking at the breakdown, 25 percent of Americans who started using drugs and alcohol before voting age are addicted, compared to just four percent who started after the age of 21.
Study investigators say they also want to make sure people realize that heavy substance abuse can do a lot more damage to a developing teen brain.
"Adolescence is the critical period for the onset of addiction and a lot of other social consequences," said Foster. "The reason is because the brain is developing. Teens are more likely to take risks which we see all the time and one of them is to use these substances. But these substances have a greater negative effect on the teen brain than they would on an adult brain. So they increase the chances that kids will take risks, they interfere with brain development and they heighten the risk of addiction."
Researchers point out 94 percent of teens with substance addiction go without any treatment at all.
Instead of looking at addiction as failure, parents are being encouraged to look at it as a disease of the brain that needs to be treated, and for health care providers to make a stronger effort to notice the signs of addiction and intervene at earlier ages.