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More teens report alcohol and substance abuse due to stress 

A recent study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that stress and other mental health problems are the leading cause of alcohol and substance abuse among teens in the United States.

The study, which looked at responses from over 9,500 teenagers being evaluated for substance use disorder treatment between 2014 and 2022, asked about the teens’ reasons for abusing substances.

The majority said their main reason for substance abuse was wanting to feel more relaxed. Others mentioned needing a way to deal with depression or anxiety, cope with stress, or forget difficult memories.

More than one in six adults and adolescents in the US reported having a substance use disorder in 2022 according to a federal survey. Adolescence is a critical period where experimentation with substances often begins, putting young individuals at risk of long-term consequences such as addiction and adverse effects on brain development.

The mental well-being of American youth has garnered increasing attention in recent years, particularly highlighted by leaders in youth health who declared a national state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health in 2021.

While there are signs of progress in children and adolescent mental health, such as a decline in emergency department visits for mental health-related concerns, it remains a significant public health challenge, particularly among teenage girls.

Despite the prevalence of symptoms like anxiety and depression among adolescents, many are not accessing necessary treatment, as indicated by a recent analysis.

The study also highlights concerning trends, such as teenagers consuming substances alone, which poses increased risks, especially with the proliferation of counterfeit pills containing potent substances like fentanyl, heightening the danger of fatal overdose.

Addressing mental health alongside substance use prevention and intervention efforts is imperative to safeguard the well-being of teenagers and mitigate the broader public health implications of substance abuse.

The CDC report added: “Educating adolescents on harm reduction practices, including the risks of using drugs alone and ensuring they are able to recognize and respond to overdose (e.g., administering naloxone), could prevent fatal overdoses. It added that “reducing stress and promoting mental health among adolescents might lessen motivations for substance use.”

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