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Bored, Stressed Teens Most Likely to Turn to Substance Abuse

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Bored, stressed or overindulged kids are much more likely to smoke, get drunk and use drugs, a new national survey of teenagers reveals.

Teens who show two of those traits are three times more likely to turn to substance abuse.

"It's a catastrophic combination," said Joseph Califano Jr., chairman and president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. The group annually gauges adolescents' attitudes about drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

The national survey of 1,987 teenagers, ages 12 to 17, posed a series of questions about their behavior, their friends and drug use at school.

By category, the survey shows the chances of smoking, drinking and taking illegal drugs among teens increase 100 percent for those under high stress; 50 percent for those often bored; and nearly 50 percent for those with $25 or more a week to spend.

None of the reasons surprise therapists and school personnel in the Atlanta area.

"The study is good but it's more complicated than that," said Dr. Michael Fishman, an addiction specialist at Ridgeview Institute in Smyrna. "Do they drink and use drugs because they're rich and bored or is it because their parents are more interested in themselves, and their own social life? Or is it because dad is always gone making all that money?"

Other factors, such as a family history of addiction, peer pressure and parental involvement need to be considered, Fishman said.

Parents need to be more engaged, added Thrower Starr, a psychologist and counselor at the private intown school, Paideia: "You can't believe how many parents leave their kids unattended when they go out of town."

The survey also asked about drug access.

Getting marijuana is easier than buying cigarettes or beer, many of the polled teens said. About 20 percent said they could buy pot within an hour; another 20 percent said it would take about one day.

But there was good news.

More teenagers than ever reported having friends who don't smoke, drink or use pot.

Among the polled teens, 56 percent said they had no friends who drink regularly, up from 52 percent last year; 68 percent said none of their friends smoked pot, up from 62 percent last year.

And 70 percent said they have no friends who smoke cigarettes, up from 56 percent.

The margin of error for the National Survey of Attitudes on Substance Abuse was plus or minus 2 percentage points. > ON THE WEB: For more information about this topic:

Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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