CDC report finds teens use drugs to relieve stress and anxiety, often while alone| Trending Viral hub


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

New findings continue reports of increased anxiety and depression among the country’s youth, including unprecedented levels of hopelessness.

Because those conditions are often linked to teenage substance use, said Sarah Connolly, lead author of the new report and an epidemic intelligence officer within the CDC’s Division of Overdose Prevention, “it might make sense teens to look for ways to reduce stress. and anxiety.”

Connolly’s study is the first of its kind and expands on previously limited research into why children use drugs. It is based on data from the National Addiction Surveillance, Intervention and Prevention Program. It includes self-assessments from 15,963 adolescents, ages 13 to 18, who answered online questions about their motivations for drug and alcohol use between 2014 and 2022.

The findings do not reflect why adolescents might experiment with drugs for the first time; all were flagged for substance use disorder and subsequent treatment.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) said they used to “feel calm, calm or relaxed.” Forty-four percent used drugs, such as marijuana, as a sleep aid.

The same percentage cited drug use as a way to “stop worrying about a problem or forgetting bad memories.” And 40% said they used to deal 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 condition.

“We know the two go together,” he said. “If you have a child who you think may not be using much, but you say he does it to feel less depressed or to stop worrying, that’s a big warning sign” that he needs help.

The findings are consistent with previous research and point to a continued need for mental health services aimed at children.

It’s important to understand why teens use or abuse drugs so that the right resources and education can help them, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, wrote in an email.

“Early prevention interventions are crucial to support adolescents who may turn to drug use to cope with stress,” anxiety or depression,” Volkow said. Neither Volkow nor Walker-Harding were involved in the new research.

The majority (84%) used some form of marijuana. This comes amid growing evidence linking Cannabis use and psychotic disorders..

Less than half (49%) said they drank 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 that, in the long term, this will affect their mental and physical health,” 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 fatal.” Levy was not involved in the CDC report.

Half of the teens said they used drugs alone, with no one else around, greatly increasing their risk of suffering fatal overdoses“especially given the proliferation of counterfeit pills that look like prescription medications and contain illegal drugs,” the study authors wrote.

“Parents need to know this,” Walker-Harding said. “Many children, when they die from an overdose at home, are in their room and no one saw what happened.”

Addiction experts, including those from the CDC, urge parents and caregivers to educate children about the risks of using drugs alone. That includes providing naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses.

“Sometimes people perceive this as a difficult conversation. It’s only difficult because of our own internal difficulty with it,” Walker-Harding said. “Children will talk if they think someone is willing to listen.”

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

“You hear that all the time. This is the soup that kids swim in,” he said. “Parents are one of the few potential places for counterbalance.”


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