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More News About Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse

December 05, 2014  |  Falmouth Enterprise

Dr. Michael Bihari

As a pediatrician I’m concerned about the health and well-being of our youth. To make sure that I keep on top of the latest news, I subscribe to newsletters from several organizations including the National Library of Medicine, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The following recently showed up on my laptop: 

Close Friends May Be Key to Teens' Drinking, Not Larger Peer Group

Although parents have the most influence on teens’ alcohol use, close friends have more influence than their general peer group does, according to new research. 

The study, recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, noted that even if teens believe that many other teens drink, they are less likely to try alcohol if they believe their close friends don’t drink.

In a press release, the author of the study said, "We're spending our time changing perceptions of the broader peer group, but really what might be the more key determinant of teen alcohol use is what's going on in their own friend group. Really working to encourage teens to make friendships with non-alcohol-using friends could be one of the more effective things parents can do to help.”

A Single Drink Doubles the Odds of Ending Up in the ER

According to an international study published in the medical journal Addiction and reported in The Washington Post, “Having even one drink doubles a person’s risk of ending up in the emergency room. A person who consumes three drinks in six hours is about 4.6 times as likely to end up in the ER compared with someone who hasn’t had any drinks.” And, a person who consumed 10 drinks in six hours or less was 10 times as likely to go to the ER, compared with someone who didn’t drink. 

The study, based on more than 13,000 surveys, noted that drinking was more likely to lead to violence than to either traffic accidents or falls. For example, one drink almost quadruples a person’s odds of getting into a fight and ending up in the hospital. The risk of injury from violence increases as the amount of alcohol consumed rises.

20 Percent of College Students Abuse Prescription Stimulants

The information below is taken from an article published online by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

According to a nationally representative survey, the abuse of prescription (Rx) stimulants is becoming normalized among current college students and other young adults. The study found that young adults often misuse and abuse Rx stimulants (including Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse) as a way to manage the daily demands of academics, work and social pressures. The survey documented that 1 in 5 college students reported abusing prescription stimulants at least once in their lifetime.

The study confirms that college students generally misuse and abuse prescription stimulants for functional reasons:

  • To study and improve academic performance
  • To stay awake
  • To improve work performance at their jobs; more than 25 percent of students who report abuse of Rx stimulants also hold full-time jobs in addition to attending school.

College students’ perceptions are also important:

  • 64 percent who report abusing Rx stimulants indicate that doing so helped them obtain a higher grade, improve work performance or gain a competitive edge.
  • Students who report abuse of Rx stimulants are more likely to feel pressure to abuse stimulants to improve academic performance, compared to those who do not abuse (50 percent vs. 19 percent). 
  • Students are also less likely to think that their parents would be upset if they abused Rx medications to increase academic performance.

Current college students and other young adults who report abuse tend to have more social and active lifestyles compared to those who do not abuse Rx stimulants, They are influencers who are at the center of their social circles and are more likely to see themselves as leaders; enjoy being the center of attention; and consider themselves to be the “social hub” among their friends.

The accessibility and social acceptance of Rx stimulant abuse makes it easier for young adults to misuse these medications:

  • Of those who said they abuse Rx stimulants, 57 percent report that the last time they abused they received the medication from a friend, while 10 percent report obtaining it from a family member and 6 percent from a “dealer.”
  • 28 percent of young adults who have been legally prescribed Rx stimulants share their medicine with friends, and more than half of them report being pressured by their friends into sharing or selling their medications.
  • Overall, young adults view the abuse of Rx stimulants as less risky than the abuse of prescription pain relievers, smoking cigarettes or binge drinking.

According to Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, “These new data confirm that college students are misusing and abusing Rx stimulants in a misguided effort to manage their lives because they are burning the candle at both ends – feeling the need to perform better and achieve their academic and social goals. This fact presents an opportunity for parents and health care professionals to play a pivotal role in helping students better manage their time and the commitments that are stressing them out. And most importantly, they can and should counsel young people who have been legitimately prescribed medication for ADHD to not compromise their own health by sharing or selling those medications.”

When your college kids come home for winter vacation, this may be an interesting subject for discussion!

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