teens high risk for addiction

What teens are at high risk for addiction?

Would you say inner city, poor, abused, homeless?

This study : Adolescents from upper middle class communities: Substance misuse and addiction across early adulthood. which I first saw in WebMd, says that the privileged upper middle and rich children are at higher risk  for addiction than many of their peers.

350+ teens in New England were studied.

Drug and alcohol use was higher than across country norms, including inner city.

Rates of addiction diagnosis by age 26 were
19%-24% for girls
23%-40% for boys
These rates are two to three times the norms across the country.

Rates for addiction diagnosis by age 22 were
11%-16% for girls
19%-27% for boys
These rates are close to the same in girls, but twice as high in boys as peers across the country.

The teens were often popular high achievers who are A students. Parents tended to drink more in those cohorts than the norms.

Also: “Findings also showed the protective power of parents’ containment (anticipated stringency of repercussions for substance use) at age 18; this was inversely associated with frequency of drunkenness and marijuana and stimulant use in adulthood.” That is, parents who sent a clear message that consequences for illegal and underage substance use including alcohol and marijuana would be serious, provided protection for their teens.

A second article: Children of the Affluent: Challenges to Well-Being says this:

“Results also revealed the surprising unique significance of children’s eating dinner with at least one parent on most nights. Even after the other six parenting dimensions (including emotional closeness both to mothers and to fathers) were taken into account, this simple family routine was linked not only to children’s self-reported adjustment, but also to their performance at school. Striking, too, were the similarities of links involving family dining among families ostensibly easily able to arrange for shared leisure time and those who had to cope with the sundry exigencies of everyday life in poverty.”

Other children’s perception of parenting examined included:

felt closeness to mothers
felt closeness to fathers
parental values emphasizing integrity
regularity of eating dinner with parents
parental criticism
lack of after-school supervision
parental expectations

This aligns with my observations both in my town and with patients. I see parents “check out” sometimes when their children are in their teens. “I can’t control him/her. They are going to use drugs and alcohol.” I told my children that if they partied I would NOT be the parent who says, “Oh, he needs to play football anyhow.” I would be the parent who would be yelling “Throw the book at him/her. Bench them.” And I saw parents of teens going out to the parking lot to smoke marijuana at a church fundraiser when it was still illegal. And saying “Oh, our kids don’t know.” I thought, “Your kids are not that dumb.” They invited me along. I said, “No.” And I really lost respect for that group of parents. What example and message are they sending to their teens? Yeah, cool, do illegal things in the parking lot, nod, nod, wink, wink.

Meanwhile, my children keep me honest. “You are speeding, mom.”

“Yeah,” I say. “You are right. Sometimes I do.” And I slow down.

2 thoughts on “teens high risk for addiction

  1. Suze says:

    People are so blinded when it comes to addiction among teens. As a former drug counselor who worked with teens, my clients were for the most part NOT the poor kids, but those who had their own cars (bought by mom or dad), were the “popular” kids in their schools, often on sports teams or cheerleaders. Their parents all drank, sometimes far more than they should, and had turned a blind eye towards their kids. The excused, they rationalized, they ignored all their children’s bad behaviors. I will never forget one teen, a young man on the football team, whose father came into my office screaming at me for “destroying his kid’s future”. This man had his son with him. The kid was enormously embarrassed but tried to show his complete indifference to what was going on. Dad, pulled his wallet out and started throwing hundred dollar bills at me while screaming “you will fix this. You WILL change your report to the court”. I had security escort dad out while I spoke with the boy and explained what could happen if he didn’t get some help. His “good kid, that star player looking at a scholarship, was using crack cocaine daily and needed to be hospitalized. He was using steroids to enhance his football performance, and using alcohol to subdue some of the effects of the cocaine. I was worried the kid would die from a heart attack or worse and dad was worried about his football career. It took a court order to help that boy…then dad pulled him OUT of the hospital so he wouldn’t miss a football game where a college recruiter was scheduled to attend. The kid died on the football field. And the dad? Oh he blamed ME for not telling him how serious it was.

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