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CASA RELEASES REPORT ON ADOLESCENT SUBSTANCE USE AS AMERICA'S #1 PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM

CASA RELEASES REPORT ON ADOLESCENT SUBSTANCE USE AS AMERICA'S #1 PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM


On June 29, 2011, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University released Adolescent Substance Use:  America's #1 Public Health Problem.  In the report, CASA found that nine out of 10 Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18.  According to the press release issued about the Report, it underscores the fact that addiction is a disease with adolescent origins.  The underdeveloped teen brain makes it likelier that teens will take risks, including using addictive substances that interfere with brain development, impair judgment and heighten their risk of addiction.Highlights of the report include:

  • 75 percent (10 million) of all high school students have used addictive substances including tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine; 1 in 5 of them meets the medical criteria for addiction;
  • 46 percent (6.1 million) of all high school students currently use addictive substances; 1 in 3 of them meets the medical criteria for addiction;
  • 72.5 percent have drunk alcohol;
  • 46.3 percent have smoked cigarettes;
  • 36.8 percent have used marijuana;
  • 14.8 percent have misused controlled prescription drugs; and
  • 65.1 percent have used more than one substance.

The report finds teen substance use is the origin of the largest preventable and most costly public health problem in America today.  Immediate costs per year of teen use include an estimated $68 billion associated with underage drinking and $13 billion in substance-related juvenile justice costs.  Total costs to federal, state and local governments of substance use, which has its roots in adolescence, are at least $468 billion per year-- almost $1,500 for every person in America.  This report provides more research to support the Leadership Foundation's statement on "Excessive Alcohol Use and Wellness" released in 2010:  Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and affects every organ in the body. Research has demonstrated that early and excessive use of alcohol has both immediate effects on health such as unintentional injuries, violence, as well as risky sexual behavior, and long-term effects such as neurological and cardiovascular problems, alcoholism, cancer and liver disease.  Since nearly 50% of those who start to drink before age 15 will experience immediate and/or long-term effects in their lifetime, preventing childhood drinking is key to improving the health of both adolescents and adults.