New Study Finds US Adolescent Substance Abusers Started Using at Age 14

A new study published in the April issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry found many alarming statistics about what age US children begin using substances such as; alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and harder narcotics.

In the study, Joel Swendsen, of the University of Bordeaux in France, and colleagues analyzed data from a U.S. survey of more than 10,000 teens between the ages of 13 and 18. They found that more than 78 percent of the oldest teens had consumed alcohol, about 47 percent consumed at least 12 drinks a year, and about 15 percent met the criteria for alcohol abuse.

The study also found that 81.4 percent of the oldest teens reported the opportunity to use illicit drugs, 42.5 percent used drugs, and 16.4 percent were drug abusers.

The median age when teens started substance use was 14 for regular alcohol use or abuse with or without dependence, 14 for drug abuse with dependence, and 15 for drug abuse without dependence.

“Because the early onset of substance use is a significant predictor of substance use behavior and disorders in a lifespan, the public health implications of the current findings are far-reaching,”

Teenagers whose substance abuse caused problems socially, in school or with the law, started drinking or doing drugs when they were 14 or 15 years old, the research found. By the time kids reach age 18, almost half consumed at least 12 drinks a year and 15 percent were abusers, according to the report. About 43 percent of older teens used drugs at least once and 16 percent abused them, the study found.

The finding suggests that prevention programs should begin early in adolescence before problems arise, rather than when abuse becomes obvious, said Joel Swendsen, the lead author.

ACS is taking a step to address substance abuse prevention with a series of monthly classes,beginning May 3, targeting parents and students ages 10-14 and ages 15-21. These workshops are free to the general public but we encourage parents to reserve a spot by contacting (650) 424-0852 ext. 200 or To learn more, go here.


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