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CASA survey says boredom to blame for teen substance abuse.

The risk that teens will smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs increases sharply if they are "highly stressed, frequently bored or have substantial amounts of spending money," according to The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VIII: Teens and Parents, an annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

Among CASA's survey findings:

* High stress teens are twice as likely as low stress teens to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs.

* Often bored teens are 50 percent likelier than not often bored teens to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs.

* Teens with $25 or more a week in spending money are nearly twice as likely as teens with less to smoke, drink and use illegal drugs, and more than twice as likely to get drunk.

* Teens exhibiting two or three of these characteristics are at more than three times the risk of substance abuse as those exhibiting none of these characteristics.

* More than half the nation's 12-to-17 year olds (52 percent) are at greater risk of substance abuse because of high stress, frequent boredom, too much spending money, or some combination of these characteristics.

"High stress, frequent boredom and too much spending money are a catastrophic combination for many American teens," said CASA Chairman and President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr. "But it is a catastrophe that can be avoided through parental engagement. Parents must be sensitive to the stress in their children's lives, understand why they are bored and limit their spending money."

Other findings of this year's survey:

* The proportion of teens that consider beer easier to buy than cigarettes or marijuana is hp 80 percent from 2000 (18 percent vs. 10 percent).

* For the first time in the survey's eight-year history, teens are as concerned about social and academic pressures as they are about drugs.

* Teens at schools with more than 1,200 students are twice as likely as teens at schools with less than 800 students to be at high risk of substance abuse (25 percent vs. 12 percent).

"Two of the most common questions regarding teen drug use and addiction are: how can it happen to my child, and how can it happen to young boys or girls who seem to be typical teens?" said Califano. "These questions are often asked where the drug-abusing teen does not exhibit one of the usual warning signs of drug abuse--being physically or sexually abused, having a learning disability or eating disorder, suffering from serious depression or another mental health condition. CASA's teen survey suggests that for many teens, the answers to these questions can be found in high stress, frequent boredom and too much spending money."

The proportion of students who say that drugs are used, kept or sold at their high schools is up 18 percent over 2002 (from 44 to 52 percent). "This is a significant deterioration from last year, when most high school students attended drug free schools," Califano observed.

The incidence of high stress was greater among girls than boys, with nearly one in three girls saying they were highly stressed compared to fewer than one in four boys. And while girls and boys are equally likely to have more than $50 a week in spending money, girls with this much spending money are likelier than boys to smoke, drink, get drunk and use marijuana.

"Many parents think they have little power over their teens' substance use and a disturbing number view drugs in schools as a fact of life they are powerless to stop," noted Mr. Califano. "How parents act, how much pressure they put on school administrators to get drugs out of their teens' schools, their attitudes about drugs, and how engaged they are in their children's lives will have enormous influence over their teens' substance use. Parent Power is the most underutilized weapon in efforts to curb teen substance abuse."

On a positive note, fewer teens are associating with peers who use substances: 56 percent have no friends who regularly drink, up from 52 percent in 2002.
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Title Annotation:National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 25, 2003
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