Adolescent girls' drug usage rates

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According to a study by Schwinn et al. (2017), adolescent girls' drug usage rates have caught up to and in some cases surpassed those of boys. Despite the fact that there are similar risk factors for both sexes, there are risks unique to girls who use drugs. It is vitally important to develop intervention strategies aimed at stopping girls' drug usage. Particularly among young people who are at the height of their growth and development, illicit drug use has detrimental effects on both their health and the social environment. The effect of drug use depends on various factors such as the health status of an individual, type, and potency of drugs, frequency of use, consumed dose, and the route of administration (Schwinn et al. (2017). Drug abuse poses a serious threat to mental stability and increases the odds of death arising from intentional or accidental overdoses. It also increases the possibility of engaging in other unsafe behaviors like unprotected sex, driving under the influence of drugs, and involving in other delinquent behaviors like dropping out of school. Teenagers who start the use of drugs at an early age are at an increased risk of addictions and continued use of drugs throughout adulthood. Research studies have linked the intravenous use of drugs to increased risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C (Kellam et al., 2014).

Drug use prevalence study indicates that that the gap in drug use continues to shrink among teenagers. Past-year illicit drug use among eighth graders has been found to be nearly equal for males and females (Schwinn, Schinke & Di Noia, 2010). It has been established that the rates at which girls abuse certain drugs such as cigarettes, inhalants, tranquilizers, amphetamines, Rohypnol, and methamphetamine exceed boys' rates. Adolescents girls tend to prefer flavored alcoholic beverages. Increased alcoholic advertisements have largely contributed to the high number of young girls taking alcohol. The increased attention that girls receive from advertisement has contributed to the social normalization of female alcohol and drug use.

A significant increase in the use of drugs among girls occurs during the period in which they transition from middle school to high school. The rate of female drug use match, exceed or double that of their male counterpart during this period. Unlike males, females tend to be at an increased risk for addiction once they start using drugs since they have a shorter period between initiations to problem use. The use of drugs and alcohol also places girls at a high sexual risk. The odds of engaging in unintended and unprotected sexual behaviors increase with the increased use of drugs and alcohol (Schwinn, Schinke & Di Noia, 2010).

Adolescent girls’ drug use in the United States has emerged to be an issue of great concern that is rarely addressed in prevention efforts. Reports by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate that adolescent youths within the age bracket of 12 to 17 tend to have higher substance dependence and abuse prevalence rates at 7.4% as compared to their male counterparts within the same age group. Studies indicate that adolescent females use recreational psychotropic drugs and painkillers at a higher rate than the male counterparts. Both males and females have a relatively similar rate of heavy alcohol use (Schwinn et al., 2017).

Negative development and behavioral health trajectories have been demonstrated in both males and females adolescent engaged in the use of drugs. The trajectories include the association between alcohol use, depression, and suicidal thoughts as well as substance use requiring treatment and deficiency in verbal learning and visual-spatial memory. It has been proposed that the internalization and externalization of behaviors can be mediators between substance use and stress coping among adolescent via pathways of negative effect regulation and deviance proneness. More internalizing behaviors and symptoms have been reported in girls than in boys. Girls who abuse drugs have reported both higher levels of internalizing and externalizing behaviors as compared to drug-abusing boys (Kellam et al., 2014).

The adolescent stage is often the hallmark of unhealthy behaviors like the use of illicit drugs, smoking, and drinking. Illicit drugs comprise of various groups of compounds such as heroin, amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens, ecstasy and crack. Drug abuse represents a major public health challenge since it is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. These behaviors are related to psychiatric disorders in adolescents. Tobacco use has emerged to be the leading preventable cause of death globally. Majority of adult smokers start smoking in adolescence. Smoking prevalence among girls and boys varies across various nations (Mangerud et al., 2014). Although boys start smoking earlier, it has emerged that the prevalence of smoking in girls is higher as compared to boys in most developed nations. Individuals with psychiatric disorders tend to have higher rates of smoking as compared to the general population. Unlike smoking, the use of alcohol is usually intermittent and may have a considerable variation across the lifespan. The consumption of alcohol among young adults is on the increase globally. Alcohol use has been attributed to a considerable proportion of global disease burden (Schwinn, Schinke & Di Noia, 2017).

It has emerged that young girls start using drugs and alcohol earlier and more as compared to the past decade. The rate at which adolescent girls use drugs, alcohol and tobacco is currently higher in comparison to adolescent boys. Drug use prevention programs should target the period in which adolescent transition from middle to high school since it is during this time that a significant increase in drug use is realized.


Kellam, S. G., Wang, W., Mackenzie, A. C., Brown, C. H., Ompad, D. C., Or, F., ... &

Windham, A. (2014). The impact of the Good Behavior Game, a universal classroom-based preventive intervention in first and second grades, on high-risk sexual behaviors and drug abuse and dependence disorders into young adulthood. Prevention Science, 15(1), 6-18.

Mangerud, W. L., Bjerkeset, O., Holmen, T. L., Lydersen, S., & Indredavik, M. S. (2014).

Smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use among adolescents with psychiatric disorders compared with a population based sample. Journal of adolescence, 37(7), 1189-1199.

Schwinn, T. M., Schinke, S. P., Hopkins, J., Keller, B., & Liu, X. (2017). An online drug abuse

prevention program for adolescent girls: posttest and 1-year outcomes. Journal of youth and adolescence, 1-11.

Schwinn, T. M., Schinke, S. P., & Di Noia, J. (2010). Preventing drug abuse among adolescent

girls: outcome data from an internet-based intervention. Prevention Science, 11(1), 24-32.

March 23, 2023
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Study Drug Abuse Development

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