HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Why Do Teens Turn To Sex, Booze And Drugs?
Pubdate: Mon, 05 Jan 2004
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Fazil Mihlar


That old adage "sex, drugs and rock and roll" -- with a clear emphasis on 
sex -- seems to have a kernel of truth in it.

That's the conclusion reached by the authors of a new study -- Get High and 
Get Stupid: The Effects of Alcohol and Marijuana Use on Teen Sexual 
Behaviour -- published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 
Cambridge, Mass.

Researchers Michael Grossman, Robert Kaestner and Sara Markowitz, after 
looking at many studies, note that a lot of them "show a positive 
correlation between alcohol and marijuana use and sexual activity." But as 
anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of statistics knows, correlation isn't 

In short, the authors argue that we shouldn't conclude that alcohol and 
marijuana consumption is what leads teens to indulge in sexual activity.

Part of the reason is that many studies usually use samples that aren't 
representative of the population that's being studied. They also fail to 
take into account family backgrounds and other personal factors.

And the authors go on to say that no previous study has "recognized the 
possibility that reverse causality may be at work; that is that sexual 
activity may actually cause substance abuse."

So the question: Is it sex that drives kids to consume alcohol and take 
drugs? It may be.

After turning conventional wisdom on its head, these researchers offer some 
plausible alternative explanations for the rather heavy use of drugs, 
alcohol and sex among teens.

To do so, they relied on two large sample sizes. One came from 8,500 youths 
between the ages of 12 and 16 who have been tracked by researchers for 
years. The other came from 6,000 youths in grades seven through 12.

After examining the data, they argue that all three of these behaviour 
patterns -- sexual activity, alcohol consumption and drug use -- "may 
reflect a common personality trait such as thrill-seeking behaviour."

Yet another potential explanation is that teens who decide to have many 
sexual partners may be inclined to use drugs and consume alcohol to "cope 
with society's negative view of such behaviours."

What are consequences of this research for programs that try to prevent the 
abuse of alcohol and drugs as well as teen pregnancies?

In tackling any challenge, it's necessary to understand the size and scope 
of problems as well as the causes.

In this case, if sexual activity among teens is what's leading to abuse of 
alcohol and drugs, then efforts should be geared towards helping teens 
understand the consequences of sexual activity.

The rate of teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births in Canada and the 
United States is high. While out-of-wedlock births in Canada is around 23 
per 1,000, it's double that down south. Overall teenage pregnancy in the 
U.S. is 83 per 1,000. In Canada, it's 45 per 1,000.

In both countries, however, the rate of teen pregnancy has been on the 
decline throughout the 1990s. Pregnancies are being avoided because teens 
are abstaining from sex and using effective contraceptives. Sex education 
classes and much higher levels of motivation among youth to achieve higher 
levels of education are also reasons teen pregnancies are down.

What these results tell us is that a variety of pregnancy prevention 
programs are needed to keep sexual activity and pregnancy among teens down. 
If successful, it could also have the positive side-effect of reducing 
substance abuse, too.

In yet another study titled Abortion Legalization and Adolescent Substance 
Abuse, Kerwin Charles and Melvin Stephens Jr. found that teenagers whose 
mothers had access to health services at the time of their pregnancies, had 
"significantly lower rates of substance abuse, especially illegal narcotics."

This isn't to suggest, however, that governments and private charities 
shouldn't continue programs aimed at curbing alcohol and marijuana use.

But this research suggests there may be certain personalities that may be 
prone to having unprotected and careless sex and abusing alcohol and drugs.

Recognizing this fact may help experts develop more effective programs to 
combat these three serious social problem.
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