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Teen Boredom, Affluence Big Factors

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Boredom and a wad of cash can lead young Americans to substance abuse, according to a Columbia University survey.

The study also found that students at smaller schools and those attending religious schools are less likely to abuse narcotics and alcohol.

Young people ages 12-17 who are frequently bored are 50% likelier than those not often bored to smoke, drink, get drunk, and use illegal drugs, said the study by the university's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

Those with $25 or more a week in spending money are nearly twice as likely as those with less to smoke, drink and use illegal drugs, and more than twice as likely to get drunk, the study said.

High stress can also take its toll - kids suffering from stress are twice as likely as those with low stress to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs, results showed. High stress was experienced more among girls more than boys, with nearly one in three girls saying they were highly stressed compared with fewer than one in four boys.

Much of the stress was attributed to academic worries and pressures to have sex and take drugs.

Kids at schools with more than 1200 students are twice as likely as those at schools with less than 800 students to be at high risk of substance abuse, according to the study, and Catholic and other religious schools are likelier to be drug-free than public schools.

The average age of first use is about 12 years for alcohol, 12 1/2 years for cigarettes and almost 14 years for marijuana, the center found.

"This is an alarm call to parents," said Joseph Califano Jr., the center's president. "You should be aware of what your kids are doing, know your child and don't underestimate your power you have over your children."

QEV Analytics interviewed 1987 kids aged 12-17 and 504 parents, 403 of whom were parents of interviewed kids, for the survey. They were interviewed from March 30-June 14. The margin of error was (+-)2 percentage points for kids and (+-)4 percentage points for parents.

The study also found fewer teens are associating with peers who use substances - 56% have no friends who regularly drink, up from 52% in 2002; 68% have no friends who use marijuana, up from 62% in 2002; 70% have no friends who smoke cigarettes, up from 56% in 2002. This article was prepared by Health & Medicine Week editors from staff and other reports.

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