Report Says Young Females Follow Unique Substance Abuse Path
Differences between the sexes is an age-old topic. Yet, when it comes to alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use, a new study shows that we have a lot to learn.
Young females have been catching up to young males in their use of harmful substances. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University did a 3-year study to look for answers that might be specific to girls and young women.1
What To Know
Looking at both causes and effects, the CASA study found that alcohol and drug use is much different for young females than for young males.
So, why do girls and young women turn to harmful substances? Often, young females who use them are trying to cope. Girls and young women may seek to:
- Improve mood.
- Boost confidence.
- Relieve stress.
- Lower inhibitions.2
More than teen boys, teen girls feel it is easy to get LSD, crack, cocaine, and heroin. They are just as likely as teen boys to say that marijuana is easy to get. Teen girls also are less likely to have to prove their age when they try to buy cigarettes.3
Other issues related to young females' underage drinking, smoking, and illegal drug use include:
- Dieting and concern about weight.
- Sexual and physical abuse.
- Influence of peers.
- Life changes—early puberty, moving often, and moving on to high school and college.4
The CASA report also revealed that caffeine is linked to young females' use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs. Girls and young women who drink coffee are much more likely to smoke and drink alcohol than girls and young women who do not drink coffee.5 Young women who drink coffee also begin smoking and drinking alcohol at earlier ages.6
What's more, young females are more likely than young males to suffer the physical effects of harmful substances. The study found that:
- Girls are more likely to become addicted to nicotine and cocaine.
- Females start abusing alcohol faster than males.
- Females are more likely to suffer alcohol-related health problems.
- Girls and young women are more likely to have these problems even when they use the same amount or less of a substance than young males.7
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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