A new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that the 15 percent of U.S. high school seniors who abuse alcohol and drugs first began using them at age 14 or 15. The research was based on data from a national survey of more than 10,000 American teens ages 13 to 18, conducted between 2001 and 2004.
The report also found that about 43 percent of older teens used drugs at least once and 16 percent abused.
“This is showing us that we should intervene well before 14 or 15 years old,” said lead author Joel Swendsen, director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research at the University of Bordeaux, France. “The earlier you can intervene, the bigger the payoff in terms of preventing these problems.”
The study is one of the first to track substance abuse trajectories during this key period of child development. A previous report, using the same data set, found that white and Hispanic kids were more likely than those of other racial groups to consume alcohol or drugs. Boys were more likely than girls by the age of 17 or 18 to drink or do drugs.