Three-quarters of high school students have smoked cigarettes, drunk alcohol or used another drug, and nearly half have done so within the past 30 days, according to a new report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
High school students were most likely to have tried alcohol, with 72.5 percent admitting to drinking it. Nearly half – 46.3 percent – have smoked cigarettes, while 36.8 percent have used marijuana and 14.8 percent have misused prescription drugs.
Teen tobacco, alcohol and marijuana users are at least twice as likely to have poor grades. Substance abuse is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among adolescents – accidents, homicides and suicides – and increases the risk of numerous potentially fatal health conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
According to the report, one in eight high school students has a diagnosable clinical substance use disorder involving nicotine, alcohol or other drugs. Nine out of 10 people with substance use disorders began smoking, drinking or using other drugs before they turned 18.
The report recommends educating the American public so that they understand that teen substance use is a preventable pubic health problem. Parents should set a good example, restrict access to addictive substances and get help at the earliest sign of trouble. Lawmakers should raise taxes on tobacco and alcohol products, raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and limit adolescents’ exposure to tobacco and alcohol advertising.
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