November 27, 2017 —

Every month, we keep you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at a recent study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, which examines a potential link between the decrease in teen substance abuse and the decrease in teen delinquency over the past decade.

Each year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducts the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in which 12- to 17-year-olds from all 50 states are surveyed. In late October 2017, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine have compiled and compared the results of these surveys from 2003-2014, which included responses from a total of 210,599 teens.

The results of this compiled data showed that the number of substance use disorders in this age group had declined by nearly half (49%) in the twelve-year period. Simultaneously, the results revealed a 34% decline in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting, assault, stealing, or selling drugs. While the drop in substance abuse rates has been found by several other studies, this study was the first to suggest a link between this decrease and the decline in delinquency.

As we covered in last month’s edition of Not My Teen, it seems that teens today are becoming increasingly less likely to engage in the activities teens did 30 years ago, including risky ones. Washington University School of Medicine is putting forward that adolescent behavioral changes could be the main driving force behind the declines seen in substance abuse rates.

While these decreases are clearly great news, these findings don’t mean that our work is done. We must continue to spread awareness of medicine abuse and inform teens of the risks that are associated with such misuse. One in three teens knows someone who has abused over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high, so while this behavior has decreased, it is still occurring.

While there has been a decrease in rates of teen abuse and an increase in parental awareness, the reality is that no one is born knowing the risks. We must continue to work together to inform teens of the dangers of abuse as they grow up and begin to be exposed to risky behaviors. Find information on the prevalence of teen medicine abuse, warning signs and slang terms, and what you can do to prevent it.

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