Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Adolescent drug use in U.S. relatively stable in first stage of COVID-19 crisis

According to a new study, among adolescents aged 10 to 14 in the United States, the overall rate of drug use remained relatively stable in the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a decreased use of alcohol, but an increased use of nicotine and misuse of prescription drugs, reports Medical Xpress. The findings, published in the August 24 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, are derived from the ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, the largest long-term study of brain development and child health conducted in the U.S. In the current paper, researchers monitored 7,842 adolescents and their families at 21 sites across the U.S. for six months following the first issuing of stay-at-home orders. In multiple surveys, the participants were asked to describe their substance use, including alcohol, tobacco and non-prescribed drugs. Surveys also assessed youth’s intensity of worry about COVID-19 and measured related stressors, such as educational disruptions, loss of jobs or hardships within their families. Substance use among surveyed adolescents was stable during the first six months of the pandemic: 8 percent reported using a substance in the past 30 days; 3.4 percent reported using alcohol; 3.6 percent reported using nicotine. In families that experienced loss of income or material hardship during the pandemic, substance use among youth was higher. Heightened stress, depression, and anxiety were all robustly associated with youth substance abuse. “Taken together, these findings underscore the disproportionate burden of the pandemic on youth and families with pre-existing disadvantages,” said first author William Pelham III, a postdoctoral scholar in the Center for Human Development at UC San Diego. “Providing material support to distressed families and linking emotionally distressed youth to support may serve as important risk-mitigation strategies, both today and during similar events in the future.”

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