USA: Youth Stay Alcohol-Free Longer
Results from a new study have found in the United States that adolescents stay alcohol-free longer. This means the age of alcohol onset has gone up.
The study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that between 2004 and 2017,
- the age of starting alcohol and tobacco use for teens rose from 16 to 17 years,
- for cocaine initiation the age went up from 18 to 19 years,
- the average age of when someone began using 12 of 18 drugs also rose. These drugs included alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy, hallucinogens, heroin, inhalants, LSD, marijuana, stimulants, cigars, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, and
- more than 84,000 youth over 12 years reported trying any drug.
The study used data from U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 2004 to 2017. The research team collected data on young people aged 12 years and older.
The researchers say this is positive news for public health. Delayed initiation prevents early exposure to harmful substances, which is linked to various long-term negative health outcomes. They also think the results mean prevention strategies are working.
…these promising trends may serve as initial evidence that prevention strategies, especially those that focus on adolescents and young adults, are working,” said Dr. Karl Alcover, lead researcher of the study and postdoctoral research associate at Washington State University, as per UPI.
According to Linda Richter, director of policy research and analysis at the Center on Addiction, the results are consistent with other recent research that has found trends generally are moving in a more healthy direction for teens when it comes to tobacco, alcohol and other drug use.
Starting with the millennial generation alcohol-free lifestyle is becoming increasingly more common with youth. The current Gen Z is the least alcohol consuming generation in history.
Not all news is good, however, as vaping of nicotine and THC has increased dramatically in recent years leading to a public health crisis. Cannabis which contains THC has been found to significantly affect the brain development of adolescents and cause mental health issues. Despite this cannabis legalization in several states have made this substance highly available and largely unregulated.
According to the report, those who use inhalants start the youngest at an average age of 15 years.
Reasons for onset age to increase
According to the researchers, parents play a pivotal role in whether kids start using drugs or not.
Parental involvement helps reduce children’s drug involvement.
Parents should talk to their children about the risks of being involved in drug use, and parents should begin this type of conversation with their children early,” said Dr. Alcover, as per UPI.
Another factor the researchers believe contributed to increasing age of substance use onset is comprehensive scientific prevention efforts. Providing honest and accurate information about real risks of substance use has proven more effective to reduce teenage substance use.
Nation-wide efforts such as through comprehensive policies are also important to reduce youth initiation to drugs. These policies such as the World Health Organization recommended alcohol policy best buys, reduce availability, affordability and visibility of substances, leading to lower use of substances and lower harm in the long run.