By 14 to 15 years old, U.S. girls are about 25 percent more likely to start drinking than are boys their age
By Sharon Oosthoek
April 25, 2016
Although tweens and teens should not drink alcohol, plenty do. So a major U.S. survey recently asked a large group of 12- to 24-year-olds how old they were when they had their first full alcoholic drink. Just a sip or two did not qualify, here. Girls, it now turns out, were more likely than boys to start drinking before age 18.
In fact, 14- to 15-year-old girls were about 25 percent more likely to drink than were boys their age.
That was a surprise. Other studies had shown adult men drink more, and more often, than do women. So most researchers had assumed this trend meant males were more likely than females to start drinking in their teens. The new study challenges that assumption.
The new study analyzed data from 400,000 young people. All had taken part in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). That survey collects data from some 70,000 different Americans each year. It asks about their use of tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs (including non-medical use of prescription drugs) and their mental health. The number of teens it includes is important. Asking a very large number of people the same question means their answers are likely to represent trends in the rest of the population.
Our study is the first to report at a national scale that adolescent girls are more likely to drink, says Hui Cheng. She works at Michigan State University in East Lansing. As an epidemiologist, Cheng investigates what causes a particular illness or bad habit and how to limit its spread. Her team’s new findings appeared April 3 in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
If more men than women drink, what explains girls starting to drink at a younger age than boys? The answer, Cheng’s data indicate, is that girls who start drinking early are more likely to stop drinking before the age of 21 than are those who start later. In contrast, boys who start drinking early continue to drink alcohol as adults.
But even if girls tend to stop drinking as they reach adulthood, that doesn’t mean their early behavior was harmless, says Cheng.
The brain doesn’t fully mature until people reach their mid-20s. Drinking alcohol, some research suggests, can interfere with the proper development of a teen’s brain. Last year, one study looked at this in a model of teens (young rats stood in for people). It found that alcohol can lead to long-lasting and harmful changes to a part of the brain called the hippocampus. This region controls memory and learning.
Scott Swartzwelder works at Duke University in Durham, N.C. An author of that study, he studies how brains function under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.
A teen’s brain is more sensitive to alcohols effects on memory and learning than is an adult’s. At the same time, adolescent brains are less sensitive to alcohols sedating effect. This effect can make someone sleepy.
Most adults have a few drinks and then say, OK, Ive had enough. Im going to bed, says Swartzwelder. Adolescents can drink a lot more before they feel sleepy,” he notes. “So they miss a primary signal to tell them theyve had enough.
And that may be why alcohol puts so many teens at risk. Although it is illegal for those under 21 to drink alcohol in the United States, this age group accounts for 11 percent of all alcohol consumed. Most of those drinks were consumed to excess, in a behavior known as binging.
Alcohol related injuries and other conditions send some 189,000 underage drinkers to U.S. emergency rooms each year. And some 4,300 U.S. deaths each year are linked to excessive underage drinking. These data come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.
Most anti-drinking campaigns don’t target girls
Most programs to discourage teen drinking target boys, says Cheng. Yet if girls are more likely to start drinking when they are young, she says, that needs to change.
But first, she adds, researchers need to learn what encourages girls to start early. Chengs study did not try to answer that. But she suspects the answer could have something to do with changing attitudes towards alcohol.
Since the end of the Second World War in the mid-1940s, society has not judged women drinkers as harshly as it once did, Cheng says. This may have led to more girls, even at a young age, being exposed to alcohol.
The next step is to find out how much alcohol today’s girls are drinking: We are looking now at the transition to heavy drinking,” she says — from experimenting to potentially becoming an alcoholic.
This information is provided to us by Community Anti-Drug Coalition CADCA on February 18,2016
Adderall Abuse on the Rise among Young Adults, Johns Hopkins Study Suggests
While the number of prescriptions for the stimulant Adderall has remained unchanged among young adults, misuse and emergency room visits related to the drug have risen dramatically in this group, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.
Anecdotal evidence had suggested the most severe problem of Adderall misuse was among older children and adolescents, but the new research – published this week in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry – finds otherwise.
The study examined trends from 2006 through 2011 and found that it is mainly 18-to-25-year-olds who are inappropriately taking Adderall without a prescription, primarily getting the medication from family and friends and without a physician recommendation or prescription.
“The growing problem is among young adults,” said one of the study co-authors, Ramin Mojtabai, MD, MPH, PhD, a professor of mental health at the Bloomberg School, in a news release. “In college, especially, these drugs are used as study-aid medication to help students stay up all night and cram. Our sense is that a sizeable proportion of those who use them believe these medications make them smarter and more capable of studying. We need to educate this group that there could be serious adverse effects from taking these drugs and we don’t know much at all about their long-term health effects.”
Adderall, the brand name for amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, does improve focus, Mojtabai said, but it can also cause sleep disruption and serious cardiovascular side effects, such as high blood pressure and stroke. It also increases the risk for mental health problems, including depression, bipolar disorder and unusual behaviors including aggressive or hostile behavior. There is little research on long-term effects. In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put a black box warning on dextroamphetamine and amphetamine due to cardiovascular risks. It is prescribed for conditions such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.
For their study, the researchers examined three separate sets of data: the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a population survey of substance use; the Drug Abuse Warning Network, a survey of emergency department visits; and the National Disease and Therapeutic Index, a survey of office-based practices including prescribing.
They found that in adults, during the six-year study period, treatment visits involving Adderall were unchanged, while non-medical use of Adderall (that is, taking the drug without it being prescribed) rose 67 percent and emergency room visits went up 156 percent. Over the same period, in teens, treatment visits involving Adderall went down, nonmedical use was stable and emergency room visits declined by 54 percent.
It is interesting to note that, the trends for methylphenidate, sold under the brand name Ritalin (among others), and another prescription stimulant prescribed for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, were unchanged over the period.
Study first author, Lian-Yu Chen, MD, PhD, recommended that drugs like Adderall should be monitored in the same way that prescription painkillers have started to be monitored in recent years.
Remarks of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, delivered by Dr. Gerald Marti
Good afternoon. My name is Dr. Gerald Marti and I’m here today on behalf of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, our nation’s oldest and largest organization of physicians specializing in the treatment of addiction.
We are pleased to offer our strong support for the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act and want to thank Senators Baldwin and Capito for their bipartisan leadership on this critically important issue affecting our nation and, in particular, our veterans.
As a practicing addiction specialist, I have seen the devastation that this disease can cause, and my colleagues and I know far too many families like the Simcakoskis who have lost loved ones, many at the prime of their lives.
Unfortunately, the epidemic of opioid addiction we are now facing has in many ways been spurred and exacerbated by our own health care system. Health care providers often don’t receive adequate training in pain management or the identification and treatment of substance use disorders. Because of this, they too often rely on opioid therapy when other options are available to treat pain, and we too often miss the signs and symptoms of addiction or simply don’t know how to help patients with addiction.
This bill goes a long way to improving opioid prescribing practices at VA hospitals and clinics, which is a crucial component of a comprehensive effort to stem the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths in the U.S. Specifically, we applaud the legislation for:
Requiring stronger opioid prescribing guidelines and education for VA prescribers, which will help ensure our veterans are receiving evidence-based, safe and compassionate care;
Increasing coordination and communication throughout the VA with medical facilities, providers, patients and their families around pain management, alternative treatments for chronic pain and appropriate opioid therapy; and
Increasing access to opioid antagonists, which can counter the effects of opioid overdoses and save lives.
ASAM has long been a supporter of mandatory education for prescribers of controlled substances, and offers several educational opportunities for health care providers to learn more about safe opioid prescribing. I’m one of several ASAM faculty members who teach an FDA-mandated Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) course for safe use of extended-release, long-acting opioids, and I’ve seen firsthand the difference this education can make in patient care. Importantly, this course also emphasizes the prevention of addiction and diversion, and the identification and treatment of substance use disorders, educational components we were pleased to see included in this legislation. As we all know, the issues involving opioids that the VA is struggling with are the same issues that our nation is facing at large. We hope that the lessons learned and improvements made to veterans’ care through the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act can eventually be translated to the broader population.
Our veterans have given so much in service to our country, and they deserve the best health care we can offer in return. That includes ensuring our brave men and women have access to high-quality, safe and compassionate pain management and addiction treatment, and this legislation will help make that happen.
ASAM would like to thank Senators Baldwin and Capito again, and offer our condolences to the Simcakoski family. We look forward to working with the Senators and other allies to ensure the swift passage of this important bill.