Smoking, Drinking, Drugs: The Younger They Start, The Harder It Is To Quit

November 18, 1997

Young people who experiment with tobacco, alcohol or illicit drugs at an early age are less likely to quit their habit than those who start later.

David J. DeWit, PhD, of the Addiction Research Foundation in London Ontario, and colleagues at McMaster University came to that conclusion after studying the drug use histories of 4,364 youngsters in Ontario, Canada who were surveyed in 1990-91.

Their results, published in the December 1997 issue of Health Education & Behavior, revealed that starting to smoke and to use drugs and alcohol begins earlier than previously reported, with some children taking their first drink as early as at 10 and 11, their first illicit use of prescribed drugs at 11, their first use of hallucinogens at age 12, and their first use of cocaine and crack at 15 and 16.

Overall, they report, the major risk period for beginning tobacco, alcohol or illegal drug use begins around age 12, peaks between 15 and 19, and is mostly over by age 22. For crack cocaine use, the risk begins at about age 15 and fluctuates to age 29.

The research team concluded that "knowing the exact ages when young people are at greatest risk of engaging in substance use and abuse is crucial for health and education experts to introduce prevention programs in a more timely fashion."

They urged that abuse-prevention programs for alcohol, prescribed drugs and hallucinogens begin as early as middle and late elementary school years. "Programs must ... be introduced in a more timely fashion, well in advance of periods in which the incidence of abusive consumption begins to escalate," they write.

"Our data revealed that age at onset of drug use was a strong correlate of young people's propensity to quit their drug habit," they write, noting that this was particularly true for marijuana users: nearly 60 percent of those who said they started using marijuana before age 15 were still doing so after eight years, but among those who started at 19 or older, only 20 percent were still users after 8 years. Among other findings: The research supports earlier work that identified an association between early age at onset of drug use and the development of drug-related problems later in life. The research was funded by the Addiction Research Foundation, an agency of the Province of Ontario.

Health Education & Behavior, a bimonthly peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), publishes research on critical health issues for professionals in the implementation and administration of public health information programs. SOPHE is an international, non-profit professional organization that promotes the health of all people through education. For additional information, contact Elaine Auld at (202) 408-9804.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health (http://www.cfah.org). For information about the Center, contact: Richard HŽbert (rhebert@cfah.org)

Center for Advancing Health

Related Alcohol Articles from Brightsurf:

Alcohol use changed right after COVID-19 lockdown
One in four adults reported a change in alcohol use almost immediately after stay-at-home orders were issued: 14% reported drinking more alcohol and reported higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who did not drink and those whose use stayed the same.

Changes in hospitalizations for alcohol use disorder in US
Changes over nearly two decades in the rate of hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths from alcohol use disorder in the US were examined in this study.

Associations of alcohol consumption, alcohol-induced passing out with risk of dementia
The risk of future dementia associated with overall alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced loss of consciousness in a population of current drinkers was examined in this observational study with more than 131,000 adults.

New alcohol genes uncovered
Do you have what is known as problematic alcohol use?

Does estrogen influence alcohol use disorder?
A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that high estrogen levels may make alcohol more rewarding to female mice.

Sobering new data on drinking and driving: 15% of US alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol under the legal limit
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, found that motor vehicle crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent accounted for 15% of alcohol-involved crash deaths in the United States.

Alcohol-induced deaths in US
National vital statistics data from 2000 to 2016 were used to examine how rates of alcohol-induced deaths (defined as those deaths due to alcohol consumption that could be avoided if alcohol weren't involved) have changed in the US and to compare the results by demographic groups including sex, race/ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and geographic location.

Cuts in alcohol duty linked to 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England
Government cuts to alcohol taxes have had dramatic consequences for public health, including nearly 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England since 2012, according to new research from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).

Integrated stepped alcohol treatment for people in HIV care improves both HIV & alcohol outcomes
Increasing the intensity of treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) over time improves alcohol-related outcomes among people with HIV, according to new clinical research supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet:Targets to reduce harmful alcohol use are likely to be missed as global alcohol intake increases
Increasing rates of alcohol use suggest that the world is not on track to achieve targets against harmful alcohol use, according to a study of 189 countries' alcohol intake between 1990-2017 and estimated intake up to 2030, published in The Lancet.

Read More: Alcohol News and Alcohol Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.