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Teenage Girls More Likely to Perceive Benefits of Substance Abuse than Boys
A new study released by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America® and MetLife Foundation shows that teenage girls are more likely to perceive benefits from engaging in alcohol or drug abuse than teenage boys. The study was based on a 2009 survey called Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey (PATS) and was conducted on students nationwide. Although the statistics showed an increase in both male and female adolescents belief in the benefits of self-medicating, the number of females affirming positively to substance use exceeded the number of boys—a shift from the 2008 study.
A total of 3,287 teenagers in grades 9–12 were assessed on their beliefs regarding substance abuse and its perceived potential to help cope with personal and family stress. According to the PATS data, about 68% of girls agreed that using drugs helps teenagers cope with problems at home—an 11% increase from the previous year’s study. Over half of the female population (53%) believe that drugs can help teenagers forget their problems—a 10% increase from female participants’ response in 2008. Researchers found that nearly three times as many female participants as males report having symptoms of depression, and identify stress as the main contributor to females’ inclination to use alcohol or drugs. Girls are more likely than boys to consider substance use as an effective coping mechanism for stress relief. Researchers conclude that teenage girls are currently at a much higher risk of substance abuse disorders than their male counterparts, according to the new data.
In the 2009 survey, girls also demonstrated an increased acceptance of various illicit drugs use. The study shows that 59% of female participants are engaging in alcohol consumption in social settings—an 11% increase from 2008. Conversely, the males’ level of alcohol acceptance at 52% was relatively the same as their data from the previous year. The study also showed a 29% increase in girls’ acceptance of marijuana use while boys only demonstrated a 15% increase. Additionally, fewer girls stated that they do not want to hang out with others who use drugs, with 33% agreeing in 2009 while 38% had agreed in 2008. Lastly, girls were less likely to believe that ecstasy is an addictive substance, with 77% agreeing in 2009 while 82% had agreed in 2008. The study’s researchers find this data to show how girls are considering drugs and alcohol to be less dangerous, and more of a characteristic of social settings.
However, researchers warn that substance abuse still poses a potential risk to both teenage boys and girls equally, and that parents should consider proper preventative and intervention methods and treatment for both genders. Male participants also reported increased support for substance abuse. Around 52% of males agreed that drugs can help one relax socially—a 16% increase from the previous year. Moreover, 41% of males affirmed that parties that contain drugs are more fun, a 21% increase from the prior year.
If parents intervene early, they can effectively prevent much greater risks caused by substance abuse later on. The best strategy is to prevent the problem from even occurring before it’s too late.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America is a nonprofit organization aimed at spreading awareness to parents, children, families, and educators on the dangers of substance abuse and providing reliable research-based materials and data. The Partnership also provides prevention mechanisms, guidance on interventions between parents and children, and information on proper treatment resources for adolescents. To view the full PATS report, visit www.drugfree.org.