-- Randy Dotinga
SATURDAY, May 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Teens caught smoking
pot or drinking alcohol at school may have deeper problems and
should undergo screening for serious health risks, a new study
The findings suggest that kids who use drugs and alcohol are at
higher risk of depression, violence at the hands of boyfriends or
girlfriends, and suicide attempts, the study authors said.
"At-school substance use is not just an isolated event requiring simple disciplinary action but an important signal identifying teens in need of urgent psychosocial assessment and support," said study author Dr. Rebecca Dudovitz. She is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and the UCLA Children's Discovery & Innovation Institute.
The researchers looked at statistics from a 2011 government
survey of more than 15,000 U.S. high school students.
Nine percent of the students said they'd used alcohol or pot at
school. These kids were dramatically more likely to suffer from
other unhealthy behaviors such as driving while intoxicated or
riding in a car with an intoxicated driver; fighting; carrying a
weapon at school, and experiencing domestic violence from an
"intimate partner." Other problematic behaviors that were more
likely: being forced to have sex; showing symptoms of depression;
thinking about suicide; and attempting suicide.
"When a student is found using substances at school, we should think of it as a sign that a child needs help," Dudovitz said in a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"Given the strong association of at-school substance use with some very serious and dangerous health risks, like having experienced sexual trauma and attempting suicide, we should not dismiss at-school substance use as just another school infraction," Dudovitz said. "Instead, it may be a truly urgent call for caring adults to get involved and help that student access appropriate services."
The findings are to be presented Saturday at the annual meeting
of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver, Canada. Data and
conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
For more about teens and drug use, see the
Institute on Drug Abuse.
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