Friday, July 1, 2011

CASA Calls Teen Substance Use America's No. 1 Health Problem

This week the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University released a report calling teen substance use the worst public health problem in America.

CASA’s 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 include:
  • 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.
“The problem is not that we don’t know what to do, it’s that we are failing to act. It is time to recognize teen substance use as a preventable public health problem and addiction as a treatable medical disease, and to respond to it as fiercely as we would to any other public health epidemic threatening the safety of our children,” Susan Foster, CASA’s Vice President and Director of Policy Research and Analysis said in a news release.

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