Teens Sex Activity Tied to Drink & Drugs

Teens Sex Activity Tied to Drink & Drugs

Aug 20, 2004 -- The more sexually active friends a teen has and the more time a teen spends with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the greater the risk that teen will smoke, drink, get drunk or use illegal drugs, according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

An Expert Comment

"The message for parents from this year's survey is clear -- the thunder of teen sexual activity and dating behavior may signal the lightning of substance abuse," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., head of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. (Califano was formerly Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.)

Drug-Free Schools

The survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse contains much more of interest. For example, the survey clearly shows the importance of drug-free schools and the dysfunctionality of schools where drugs are used, kept and sold. These schools are plagued with more physical fights and cheating. We believe that all schools should be drug-free.

We heartily recommend that you read the summary of the report (below). It is good reading and relevant to all of us.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com

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WASHINGTON, August 19, 2004 - The more sexually active friends a teen has and the more time a teen spends with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the greater the risk that teen will smoke, drink, get drunk or use illegal drugs, according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse IX: Teen Dating Practices and Sexual Activity, an annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA*) at Columbia University.

This ninth annual CASA survey found:

  • Compared to teens with no sexually active friends, teens who report half or more of their friends are sexually active are more than six and one-half times likelier to drink; 31 times likelier to get drunk; 22.5 times likelier to have tried marijuana; and more than five and one-half times likelier to smoke.
  • Teens who spend 25 or more hours a week with a boyfriend/girlfriend are two and one-half times likelier to drink; five times likelier to get drunk; 4.5 times likelier to have tried marijuana; and more than 2.5 times likelier to smoke than teens who spend less than 10 hours a week with a boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Girls with boyfriends two or more years older are more than twice as likely to drink; almost six times likelier to get drunk; six times likelier to have tried marijuana; and four and one-half times likelier to smoke than girls whose boyfriends are less than two years older or who do not have a boyfriend.

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"The message for parents from this year's survey is clear - the thunder of teen sexual activity and dating behavior may signal the lightning of substance abuse," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA's chairman and president and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.

Other striking findings in this year's survey:

  • Teens, half or more of whose friends regularly view and download Internet pornography, are more than three times likelier to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs, compared to teens who have no friends who engage in such behavior.
  • Forty-four percent of high school students think that boys at their school often or sometimes "push girls to drink alcohol or take drugs in order to get the girls to have sex or do other sexual things."

"This year's survey reveals a tight connection between teen sexual behavior and substance abuse," said Califano. "This is not to say that teen sexual behavior causes substance abuse or that substance abuse causes teens to have sex, although we know that alcohol and drugs like marijuana and cocaine are sexually disinhibiting. It is to say that parents who become aware of certain dating and sexual behavior by their children should be alert to the increased likelihood of substance abuse."

Drug-Free Schools

For the first time in its history, the CASA teen survey examined the frequency of physical fighting and cheating at schools where drugs are used, kept or sold. At such schools, 62 percent of students report seeing physical fights on a monthly basis, and students estimate that 54 percent of the student body regularly cheats on homework and tests, compared to 42 percent and 40 percent, respectively, at drug-free schools.

"This year's survey underscores the importance of drug-free schools and the across-the-board dysfunctionality of schools where drugs are used, kept and sold," added Califano.

Parental Perceptions

Forty-four percent of parents believe that teens who abuse prescription drugs get them from their parents. Yet an overwhelming 71 percent of parents do not take any special precautions to protect prescription drugs in their homes.

Only 12 percent of parents think that a teen's number one concern is drugs, while 29 percent of teens report drugs as their biggest concern.

Other Key Findings:

  • Forty-five percent of teens attend parties where alcohol is available; 30 percent where marijuana is available; 10 percent where prescription drugs are available; and nine percent where cocaine or Ecstasy is available.
  • Drugs have rebounded as the number one concern of teens.
  • Twenty-one percent of 12 to 17 year-olds can buy marijuana in an hour or less; 40 percent can buy marijuana within a day.
  • Forty-five percent of teens have friends who regularly view and download pornography from the Internet; such teens are at increased risk of smoking, drinking or using illegal drugs.
  • Teens who attend religious services weekly are at less than half the risk of smoking, drinking or using illegal drugs as teens who do not attend such services.

"Parents, make sure you are aware of the dating practices of your child and get to know your child's friends," said Califano.

QEV Analytics conducted The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse IX: Teen Dating Practices and Sexual Activity for CASA between April 16 and May 16, 2004. One thousand teens aged 12 through 17 and 500 parents were interviewed at home by telephone. All of the 500 parent interviews were conducted in a household where parents gave consent for their teen to be interviewed (even though the teen interview may not have been completed). Sampling error is +/- 3.1 percent for teens and +/- 4.4 percent for parents.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA's missions are to: inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace shame and despair with hope.

With a staff of 74 professionals, CASA has conducted demonstration projects in 89 sites in 41 cities and 21 states focused on children, families and schools, and has been testing the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment, monitoring 15,000 individuals in more than 200 programs and five drug courts in 26 states. CASA is the creator of the nationwide Family Day initiative-The Fourth Monday in September-that promotes parental engagement as a simple and effective way to reduce children's risk of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs.

Source: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University press release, August 19, 2004


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Reviewed on 8/20/2004

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