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Smoking, drug abuse related to puberty

The habit of smoking, drinking or using marijuana among adolescents may be related to their physical development.

Smoking, drug abuse related to puberty

The habit of smoking, drinking or using marijuana among adolescents may be related to their physical development, regardless of their school grade level or how old they are. Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia found that among more than 5,700 10 to 15-year-olds in the U.S. and Australia, who were in late-stage puberty were more than three times as likely to say they regularly smoked, drank or used marijuana than those in early-stage puberty. It was the biologically driven process of puberty that showed the strongest influence over the adolescents' substance use.
Previous studies have shown that children who enter puberty at a younger-than-average age may have higher rates of smoking and drinking. Researchers speculated that this is related to the low self-esteem or rejection, which early maturers may feel.The researching team's findings suggest that these children have higher rates of substance use than their peers simply because they've moved into puberty, and not because of their reaction to it. Pubertal stage showed a similar influence on older adolescents in the study as it did on younger ones. The investigators surveyed 5,725 students in Washington state and Victoria, Australia, on substance abuse, pubertal development and relationships with family, friends and school. Overall, 36 per cent of Australian students and one-quarter of U.S. students said they had ever smoked or used alcohol or marijuana. Twenty-seven per cent and 13 per cent of Australians and Americans, respectively, reported regular substance use. The researchers found that students in late-stage puberty were three times as likely, and those in mid-stage puberty were twice as likely to have ever used tobacco, alcohol or marijuana as those in early puberty. Their risks of regular substance use were similar. One explanation, the researchers found, was that students in late puberty had more friends who drank or smoked cigarettes or marijuana. This peer influence had a strong effect on substance use, though it did not fully account for the increased risk linked to late-stage puberty. Puberty seemed to drive a different pattern of social affiliation, such that kids who were well into puberty were more likely than others to choose friends who were smoking, drinking or using pot. The findings underscore the importance of preventing substance use among younger teens. This includes the willingness of parents and communities to take a harder line, and not, for instance, accept drinking as something that teenagers do. As in the study kids who reported stronger connections to their parents or schools reported less substance use.
Pediatrics,
September 2004
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