Nine out of 10 Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction¹ started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18, according to a national study released today by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.
Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem reveals that adolescence is the critical period for the initiation of substance use and its consequences. The CASA report finds 1 in 4 Americans who began using any addictive substance before age 18 are addicted, compared to 1 in 25 Americans who started using at age 21 or older.
The CASA report reveals that:
75 percent (10 million) 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 (6.1 million) of all high school students currently use addictive substances; 1 in 3 of them meets the medical criteria for addiction.
“Teen substance use is our nation’s number one public health problem. Smoking, drinking and using other drugs while the brain is still developing dramatically hikes the risk of addiction and other devastating consequences,” said Jim Ramstad, Former Member of Congress (MN-3) and a CASA board member who also chaired the report’s National Advisory Commission.
The CASA report noted that alcohol is the preferred addictive substance among high school students:
72.5 percent have drunk alcohol;
46.3 percent have smoked cigarettes;
36.8 percent have used marijuana;
14.8 percent have misused controlled prescription drugs; and
65.1 percent have used more than one substance.
“Addiction is a disease that in most cases begins in adolescence so preventing or delaying teens from using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs for as long as possible is crucial to their health and safety,” said Susan Foster, CASA’s Vice President and Director of Policy Research and Analysis. “We rightfully worry about other teen health problems like obesity, depression or bullying, but we turn a blind eye to a more common and deadly epidemic that we can in fact prevent.”
Source: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University