Survey data released today by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America® and MetLife Foundation found that teenage girls are more likely than teenage boys to perceive potential benefits from drug use and drinking, making teen girls more vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse.
According to a new research analysis of the 2009 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), sponsored by MetLife Foundation, teen girls are more likely to associate "self-medicating" benefits with drinking and getting high. More than two-thirds of teen girls responded positively to the question "using drugs helps kids deal with problems at home" (an 11 percent increase, up from 61 percent in 2008 to 68 percent in 2009) and more than half reported that drugs help teens forget their troubles (a 10 percent increase, up from 48 percent in 2008 to 53 percent in 2009). Stress has been identified as a key factor leading to drinking, smoking and drug use among girls and more than three times as many young girls as boys reported having symptoms of depression in 2008 (1).
Meanwhile, there was a significant 16 percent increase among boys who agreed that "drugs help you relax socially" (from 45 percent in 2008 to 52 percent in 2009) and a 21 percent increase among boys who agreed that "parties are more fun with drugs" (from 34 percent in 2008 to 41 percent in 2009).
"Parents of teen girls have to be especially attentive to their daughters' moods and mental health needs, which can have a direct effect on their child's decision to risk her health by getting high and drinking," said Partnership President and CEO Steve Pasierb. "Parents can help prevent alcohol and drug abuse by recognizing and addressing their daughters' worries and stresses, by supporting her positive decisions and by taking immediate action if they suspect or know she has been experimenting with drugs and alcohol."
More Teen Girls Drinking Alcohol, See Ecstasy Use as Less Addictive
The PATS data also point to upswings in use of drugs that teens are likely to encounter at parties and in other social situations, with noteworthy and dramatic increases in alcohol use among girls. Teenage girls' alcohol use increased 11 percent, from 53 percent in 2008 to 59 percent in 2009 – significantly higher, when compared to the increase in boys' drinking over the same time period (50 percent and 52 percent respectively).
While past year Ecstasy use increased substantially among both teen girls and boys, teen girls are now significantly less likely to believe Ecstasy use could be addictive (down from 82 percent in 2008 to 77 percent in 2009.) Teen girls' social disapproval of overall illegal drug use by their friends also decreased with only 33 percent reporting they "don't want to hang around drug users," down from 38 percent who agreed in 2008.
The PATS data found a significant 29 percent increase in teen girls' past year marijuana use from 2008 to 2009 and a much less dramatic 15 percent increase in boys' use of marijuana during the same time period.
"It's troubling to see that girls view illicit drug use as less dangerous than they previously did and are more likely to drink alcohol," said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. "For boys and girls alike, however, parents need to know when it's time to act, and how to act when confronted with a substance abuse situation, ensuring they'll be more effective in preventing a serious problem."
Time To Act: Resource to Help Parents Take Immediate Action, Safeguarding Kids From Drugs and Alcohol
Discovering that a teen is using drugs or drinking is often a frightening experience for parents – many feel alone, ashamed, and confused about what to do next. The Partnership encourages parents of children who are using drugs or alcohol to take action as soon as they suspect or know their child is using and provides parents with free, anonymous access to the most current, research-based information on how to help their child and their family take the next steps. Developed in collaboration with scientists from the Treatment Research Institute, Time To Act, offers step-by-step advice and sympathetic guidance from substance abuse experts, family therapists, scientists and fellow parents to help guide families through the process of understanding drug and alcohol use, confronting a child, setting boundaries and seeking outside help.
Parents and caregivers are encouraged to have frequent, ongoing conversations with their children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol use and to take early action if they think their child is using or might have a problem. Parents who visit drugfree.org can learn to talk with their kids about drugs and alcohol and take charge of the conversation with their kids.
The 21st national PATS study of 3,287 teens in grades 9-12 is nationally projectable with a +/- 2.3 percent margin of error. Conducted for the Partnership and MetLife Foundation by the Roper Public Affairs Division of GfK Custom Research, the 2009 PATS teen study was administered in private, public and parochial schools. For more information or to view the full PATS Report, please visit drugfree.org.
Partnership for a Drug-Free America