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Friday, February 8, 2013

Teenage Mental Health and Substance Abuse

It’s a sad reality that most people who suffer from mental illness rarely receive the treatment that they require to lead a normal and healthy life. Unfortunately, lack of treatment often leads to self medicating in one way or another, a home remedy for coping with one’s mental struggle. Self-medicating is rampant amongst teenagers and young adults with mental illness. In fact, according to a new study conducted in Australia, about 10 percent of young teens with mental illness frequently use alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana.

What’s worse, substance abuse patterns become more common as teenagers grow older, often leading to years of struggle with addiction on top of one’s battle with mental illness. Substance abuse among teens with mental illness commonly contributes to increased risk of poor physical and mental health outcomes, researchers at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute said.

More than 2,000 participants between the ages 12 to 30, involved in a national mental health program, took part in the study. The study found 12 percent of participants ages 12 to 17 consumed alcohol at least once a week, compared with 39 percent of those ages 18 and 19, and almost half of those ages 20 to 30. The younger the teen, the more frequent the use, being twice as likely to drink alcohol every week compared to their peers in the general population.

About 7%t of teens used marijuana at least once a week, compared with 14% of those ages 18 and 19, and 18% of those between ages 20 to 30. An estimated 23% of teens smoked cigarettes daily, compared with 36 percent of older teens, and 41% of those between 20 and 30.

“Traditionally there have been mental health services, and substance abuse services, but both have been quite separate. Our study shows that we need to integrate mental health interventions with substance use interventions in order to help at-risk young people,” lead researcher Dr. Daniel Hermens said in a news release. “There is a lot of evidence for the co-morbidity of mental health problems and substance misuse. More people have both mental health and substance use problems than either alone – in other words, it’s the rule rather than the exception.”

The findings are published in the British Medical Journal Open.

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