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Substance use among American adolescents is not a minor problem.
Youth are five times more likely to develop a substance use disorder compared to adults. And unfortunately, this disease can (and frequently does) follow them for life: only about 10 percent of substance dependence cases occur in people who began using after adolescence.
There is substantial evidence that alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana and other drug dependence problems surface more quickly when use of these drugs starts before adulthood:
1 CASAColumbia. (2011). Adolescent substance use: America's #1 public health problem.
And new findings indicate a strong link between substance use disorders and the onset of substance use specifically during puberty:
“Puberty is a very critical developmental period due to ongoing neurodevelopmental processes in the brain. It is exactly during puberty that substances like drugs of abuse - alcohol, cannabis, etc. - may induce the most destructive and also persistent effects on the still developing brain, which may in some cases even result in neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or addictive disorders. Prevention work therefore needs to increase awareness of specific risks and vulnerability related to puberty.”
-Miriam Schneider, leader of the Research Group Developmental Neuropsychopharmacology at the Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg, as well as corresponding author of "Impact of Pubertal Stage at First Drink on Adult Drinking Behavior."
Successful efforts to prevent, delay or minimize substance use during adolescence are sorely needed. They are the most economical and enduring way to reduce the many public health, safety, and economical threats associated with addiction. And yet, as a state, we pay little attention to prevention and early intervention for our kids.
It is clear that we need to do better and implement prevention strategies in every home, school and community.
For more information about how to find your local coalition and other prevention resources click here.
VADIC provides communities with informational resources pertaining to substance abuse and at-risk issues. VADIC is a grant-funded program, and its services are free for Vermonters. www.vadic.org
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