Teenage smokers at risk of depression, alcohol abuse and drug use

According to American researchers smoking cigarettes may make teens more prone to depression, alcohol abuse and illegal drug use.

In a new report based on data from a government drug use survey, researchers have found that teenagers who smoke are 9 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 13 times more likely to abuse illegal drugs than those who don't smoke.

The report "Tobacco: The Smoking Gun" which was funded by the anti-tobacco group Citizen's Commission to Protect the Truth, also says twice as many teen smokers suffer symptoms of depression than nonsmokers.

The report by the Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), was headed by former U.S. Health, Education and Welfare commissioner Joseph A. Califano Jr. and he advises parents to be alert if a teenager smokes as they are far more likely to abuse alcohol or use illegal drugs.

Despite a plethora of government campaigns and warnings about the dangers of smoking, on a daily basis another 4,000 teens in the U.S. light up for the first time.

Califano says the report was issued to make parents, teachers, and physicians aware that the dangers of teen smoking are immediate as well as long-term.

Other research also suggests that smoking at an early age is linked to panic attacks and general anxiety disorders and though the report does not prove smoking causes depression and other mental illness, according to Califano the evidence points in that direction.

Califano says smoking is clearly linked to substance abuse and depression, and this report shows that the statistical relationship is very powerful.

The CASA analysis reveals that teenagers who smoke are 13 times more likely to use marijuana than nonsmoking teens, and are twice as likely to have suffered from symptoms of depression over the course of a year.

Califano says the earlier a child begins smoking, the greater the risk; compared to children who never smoked, children who start smoking before age 13 are three times as likely to binge drink, 15 times as likely to use marijuana, and 7 times more likely to use other illegal drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

Califano says there is growing evidence that nicotine has a more profound effect on young brains than on the brains of adults, increasing their vulnerability to cigarettes and possibly other addictive substances.

This includes effects on the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin and changes to brain receptors associated with an increased desire for other addictive drugs.

The CASA report calls on the government for greater restrictions to be placed on the advertising and marketing of all types of tobacco products.

Califano says tobacco companies continue to actively market their products to children regardless of legislation banning it and he points to such products as lime, coconut and pineapple flavored cigarettes.

Califano says regardless of how it is justified selling candy-flavored cigarettes is targeting children.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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