Approximately 1 in every 10 teenagers with mental health problems drinks alcohol, smokes tobacco, and uses cannabis, Australian researchers reported in the journal BMJ Open. The authors believe these behaviors contribute to poor mental and physical health.
According to evidence from several studies, teenagers who abuse substances early in life are more likely to have mental illness, and vice-versa.
The authors gathered and examined data on over 2,000 people aged from 12 to 30 years. They were all part of the “National Mental Health Headspace Programme” in Sydney.
Of those who sought help for various mental health issues, many reported on their weekly consumption of cannabis, tobacco, and alcohol. Five-hundred of them provided detailed data on their drinking habits.
Here are the findings from the authors of the study:
- 12% of 12 to 17 year olds (young teens) consumed alcoholic beverages at least once weekly
- 39% of 18 to 19 years olds (older teens) drank alcohol at least once a week
- Nearly half of those aged 20 to 30 drank weekly
- Young teens with mental health issues were twice as likely to report drinking alcohol every week than other children of their age
- A sizeable proportion of those who provided detailed information on how much they drank were “risky drinkers”
- Nearly half of all those with bipolar disorder were risky drinkers
- 7% of younger teens used cannabis at least once weekly
- 14% of older teens consumed cannabis at least once a week
- 18% of 20 to 30 year olds used cannabis at least once a week
- Among the 12 to 17 year olds, 3.6% said they smoked cannabis every day, while 1.5% said they drank alcohol every day
- Among the 18 to 19 year olds, 8.8% reported smoking cannabis daily, while 6% drank alcohol every day
- 23% of the younger teens smoked cigarettes every day
- 36% of the older teens smoked cigarettes daily
- 41% of the 20 to 30 year olds smoked cigarettes daily
These patterns started off when the children were aged 15 on average. Those who used any or all three substances were more likely to be older, male and have bipolar or psychotic disorders.
The authors stressed that those with mental health issues have a considerably higher risk of developing serious health problems and dying prematurely.
The CDC gave a few possible explanations as to why the smoking rate among the mentally ill is higher than it is among their counterparts with no mental illness. First, it may be that the nicotine in cigarettes helps to “temporarily mask negative [effects] and symptoms associated with mental illness.”
It’s also possible that the smoke from cigarettes “accelerates the metabolism” of certain mental health medications – meaning they wear off faster, prompting someone to smoke more in order to compensate.
The authors of the BMJ Open study, for their part, suggested that it may be helpful to bring together mental health and drug and alcohol services, which traditionally function as separate entities.
1. Martinez, Jose. Nearly 1 in 10 teens with mental illness drinks, smokes and uses pot weekly. BMJ Open. 5 February 2013. Web. 4 March 2013.
Filed under: Alcohol and Drugs, Mental Illness, Substance Abuse · Tags: alcohol, cannabis, cigarettes, mental and physical health, smokes tobacco, teenagers, teenagers with mental health problems, young teens