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The drug addiction Newsletter is published periodically, and provides up-to-date information concerning advancements in the treatment of drug addiction, as well as drug addiction trends.
Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy:
Kids Entering Puberty Early More Likely to Misuse Drugs
Children who enter puberty early in age are more likely to use and misuse alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco, researchers say.
"Puberty marks the beginning of adolescence and the beginning of a much higher risk period for substance use and abuse. For the individual, this is true whether puberty occurs early or late," said study author Dr. George Patton, professor of adolescent health at the Center for Adolescent Health at Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. "Where puberty occurs early, that individual enters the higher risk period at an earlier point and hence the risk period is extended downwards -- widened, if you like."
The study, reported by Health Day News on Sept. 7, was conducted in conjunction with researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and surveyed 5,769 children ages 10 to 15 in Washington and Victoria, Australia. The researchers found that the odds of students using a substance in their lifetime were nearly twice as high in mid-puberty than early puberty, and three times as high in late puberty.
Furthermore, current substance misuse was 40 percent higher for those in mid-puberty and more than twice as high for those in late puberty. Patton said the rate was high among those in late puberty because of the tendency for mature youngsters to seek out substance users as friends.
"That was the main change affecting substance use," said Patton. "That may have something to do with substance users being the 'cool' group to belong to."
The study's findings suggest that anti-drug messages geared to younger children should be developed.
"First and foremost, the findings are telling us about the timing for investment in prevention of substance use. Late childhood through to the mid-teens is a crucial phase for the timing," Patton said. "The focus we have often had has been on health education of youth, but this study tells us something about why this is unlikely to work in a setting where substance use is common. The strategies that are likely to be most effective are those that restrict access to substance use within the younger teenage group. This might include enforcement of existing legal sanctions against use and sale of substances to this age group and clear and communicated community standards around substance use."
The study is published in the September 2004 issue of Pediatrics.
Patton, G., et al. (2004) Puberty and the Onset of Substance Use and
Abuse. Pediatrics, 114(3): e300-e306.
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