Teenagers who use drugs do so to "reduce anxiety and stress"according to a CDC report

Teenagers with suspected substance use problems say they turn to drugs out of a strong need to relax and escape worries, according to research published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). .

The new findings follow reports of rising anxiety and depression among the country’s young people, including unprecedented levels of hopelessness.

Since these conditions are usually related to substance use in adolescenceAccording to Sarah Connolly, lead author of the new report and head of the epidemic information service at the CDC’s Division of Overdose Prevention, “it may make sense for adolescents to look for ways to reduce stress and anxiety.”

The majority of respondents, 84%, indicated that they used some type of marijuana. Getty Images

Connolly’s study is the first of its kind and expands on the limited research that has previously been done on why young people use drugs. The research was based on data from the National Addiction Surveillance, Intervention and Prevention Program. It included self-assessments from 15,963 adolescents, between 13 and 18 years old, who answered online questions about their motivations for using drugs and alcohol between 2014 and 2022.

The results did not reflect why adolescents might experiment with drugs for the first time. All interviewees were identified as having substance use disorders and having received treatment.

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Almost three quarters – 73% – said they used drugs “to feel relaxed or calm”. 44% used drugs, such as marijuana, to fall asleep.

The same percentage cited drug use as a way to “stop worrying about a problem or erase bad memories.” 40% stated that they consumed them to cope with depression or anxiety.

Dr. Leslie Walker-Harding, chief academic officer and senior vice president at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said 75% of youth with a substance use disorder also have a mental health problem.

“We know that the two go hand in hand,” he said. “If he has a child who thinks he doesn’t use much, but he says he does it to feel less depressed or to stop worrying, That’s a big warning sign” that you need help.

The results coincide with previous research and point to the need for mental health services aimed at minors.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, wrote in an email that it is important to understand why adolescents consume or abuse drugsso that the right resources and education can help them.

“Early prevention interventions are crucial to supporting adolescents who may turn to drug use to cope with stress, anxiety or depression,” Volkow stated. Neither Volkow nor Walker-Harding participated in the investigation.

The majority, 84%, used some type of marijuana. This comes amid growing evidence linking cannabis use to psychotic disorders.

Less than half (49%) reported having drunk alcohol and 19% of teens surveyed reported abusing prescription medications, such as pain relievers and sedatives.

“We are concerned about children using cannabis, alcohol and nicotine because we know it will affect their mental and physical health in the long run,” said Dr. Sharon Levy, chief of the Division of Addiction Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital. . “What’s really scary is opioids, because the consequences of opioid use are immediate and can be deadly.” Levy was not involved in the CDC report.

Half of the teenagers said they used drugs without anyone else around them, which greatly increased the risk of fatal overdose“especially given the proliferation of counterfeit pills that resemble prescription medications and contain illegal drugs,” the study authors wrote.

“Parents need to know,” Walker-Harding said. “Many children die from an overdose at home while they are in their room, (yet) no one could see what was happening to them.”

Addiction experts, including those at the CDC, urge parents and caregivers to educate children about the risks of using drugs if they are alone. This includes providing naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose.

“Sometimes people think this is a difficult conversation. It’s only difficult because of our own internal limitation with the topic,” Walker-Harding said. “Children talk if they think someone is willing to listen to them.”

Levy advised examining the drug and alcohol culture in the United States: “If you’re happy, you drink to celebrate. If you’re stressed, you drink to relax. Oh my God, this candidate I don’t like is winning. I’d better go take a drink.” Cup”.

“It’s what we hear all the time. This is the reality in which children are immersed.” he said. “Parents are one of the few potential places of balance.”