Teen alcohol and drug disorders more common than previously thought

BOSTON, June 11, 2002 - A high proportion of 14-to-18-year-olds have diagnosable disorders related to the use of alcohol or drugs, according to a study to be released this week in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine (APAM).

"The high prevalence of alcohol and drug disorders in the patients we studied is of great concern. More than half of the teens coming to us for routine health care had used alcohol or drugs during the past year, and more than one in four (26.8 percent) had experienced one or more serious problems associated with their use. Of greatest concern, almost one in six (16.2 percent) had a diagnosis of either substance abuse or substance dependence, according to criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association." said the primary author of the study, John R. Knight, M.D., director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children's Hospital Boston and associate director for Medical Education at the Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions. "Dependence, or addiction, is an especially serious disease with potential for lifelong implications. Almost 7 percent of these teens were diagnosed with dependence," said Knight.

The research was funded by several national sources, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The study also demonstrated the effectiveness of a new screening tool, developed by Knight and his colleagues for use by physicians to identify at-risk teens, called the CRAFFT test. CRAFFT stands for the key words in the six-questions that make up the questionnaire:

  • C - Have you ever ridden in a CAR driven by someone (including yourself) who was "high" or had been using alcohol or drugs?

  • R - Do you ever use alcohol or drugs to RELAX, feel better about yourself, or fit in?

  • A -

Contact: Susan Craig
Children's Hospital Boston

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