The risk of developing drug dependence or abuse is greater for individuals who start using these substances in adolescence or early adolescence than for those who start during adulthood. According to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), people who start using substances at a young age are at greater risk of needing treatment later. In 2011, 74 percent of people ages 18 to 30 who were admitted for substance abuse treatment started using substances at 17 or younger. The report also showed that 10.2 percent of those admitted for treatment started using at age 11 or younger.
In addition, those who start using substances at a younger age are more likely to be using more than one substance when they are admitted for treatment. More than 78 percent of those admitted who reported starting to use substances at age 11 or younger also reported abusing two or more substances when they started treatment. In contrast, for those who reported starting to use substances at age 25 to 30, less than half as many—30.4 percent—reported abusing two or more substances.
“Early to late adolescence is considered a critical risk period for the beginning of alcohol and drug use,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Knowing the age a person starts the use of a substance can inform treatment facilities so that they can better provide timely and appropriate prevention and treatment programs.”
SAMHSA manages several grant programs intended to prevent alcohol and drug use among youth. Among those are the Partnerships for Success grant program, which is designed to address two of the nation’s top substance abuse prevention priorities: underage drinking among persons aged 12 to 20 and prescription drug misuse and abuse among persons aged 12 to 25. In partnership with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, SAMHSA also manages the Drug Free Communities Support Program, which works to reduce substance use among youth.
The report did show that treatment admissions involving substance use at age 25 to 30 had the largest proportions of primary use of heroin (35.3 percent) and prescription pain relievers (33.2 percent) of any group assessed.
The report entitled, Age of Substance Use Initiation among Treatment Admissions Aged 18 to 30, is based on data from SAMHSA’s 2011’s Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) – a national data system of annual admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities. The report also adds to the literature on this issue pertaining to substance use initiation.
The complete report findings are available on the following SAMHSA website:
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Credit to SAMHSA for this information: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.