July 2002

From NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse

Teen drug use linked with later health problems

A long-term study has linked adolescent drug use with health problems in early adulthood. Subjects in their mid-to-late twenties who had used drugs as teens reported more health problems than those who had never used drugs. Health problems included: increased incidence of respiratory conditions, such as colds and sinus infections; cognitive problems, such as difficulty in concentrating, remembering, and learning; and headaches, dizziness, and vision problems.

The NIDA-funded study found also that rebelliousness, distrust of authority, and risk-taking behavior in early adolescence and peer influences in middle adolescence were precursors to later drug use, which, in turn, led to increased health problems.

These findings are from a 22-year study that tracked the self-reported substance abuse and health histories of more than 600 youths through their early- and mid-teen years into early adulthood. Scientists from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Columbia University started collecting data on the children in 1975, when the subjects were one through 10 years of age. Four follow-up interviews were conducted in 1983, 1986, 1992, and 1997. By the time of the last interview, the average subject was 27 years old.

WHAT IT MEANS: This study adds to the body of research about the long- term public health consequences of drug abuse and the importance of early intervention to prevent adolescent drug abuse.

Lead investigator Dr. Judith S. Brook published the study in the June 2002 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.











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