UC Riverside-led study reveals pervasive lifetime substance use among U.S. adolescents in ninth to 12th grades, especially for alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana
By Iqbal Pittalwala
Examining more than 20 years of national data for U.S. adolescents, a research team led by Andrew Subica at the University of California, Riverside reports that adolescents have high prevalence of alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use, and concerning rates of suicide-related thoughts and behaviors.
The data show that among U.S. adolescents in ninth to 12th grades, 75 percent had used alcohol, 58 percent had used cigarettes, and 41 percent tried marijuana. For rates of past-year depressed mood and suicidality, over one quarter of U.S. adolescents reported depressed mood, almost 20 percent experienced serious suicidal thoughts, and 8 percent had attempted suicide. Relative to non-Hispanic white adolescents, adolescents from every racial minority group had significantly higher rates of attempted suicide over the past year.
The paper, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, presents some of the largest known estimates to date of the prevalence of substance use and suicide among American youth, with special focus on Pacific Islander, multiracial, and American Indian adolescents.
When the researchers looked at whether alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use predicted suicidality, they found that for all racial groups, except Pacific Islanders, using alcohol in the past month was linked to 1.5-2.1 times greater odds for having attempted suicide in the past year. When cigarette use in the past month was examined, adolescents from every racial group, including whites, had even higher odds for attempting suicide in the past year ranging from 2.1-2.7, suggesting a link between these problem behaviors.
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