TEEN ADDICTION: Girls Catching Up With Boys
Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and National Organization for Women officials joined the nonprofit group Drug Strategies Friday to release Keeping Score 1998, a report exploring the extent of tobacco, alcohol and other drug use among teenage girls (DA release, 12/7). The study found girls to be "quickly catching up with boys in self-destructive habits" such as drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes and marijuana. Between 1991 and 1997, the number of eighth-grade girls who reported using marijuana in the last year rose nearly threefold (11% to 28%) and the number of tenth-grade girls who reported smoking cigarettes daily grew from 12.5% to 18.5%. The study concluded that women at every age are more susceptible to nicotine addiction, "with 10th-grade girls especially vulnerable, many citing stress and the need to control their weight." Alcohol use followed similar trends: the number of eighth-grade girls who said they engaged in binge drinking in the past two weeks rose from 11.4% to 13.5% over the period studied, and the number of tenth-grade girls who said they used alcohol in the past year shot up 38% to more than 50%. "If the current trend continues, rates of drinking among 10th-grade girls will surpass rates among boys of the same age by the year 2000," the study reported. Even more alarming were statistics showing the number of juvenile girls arrested for drug-abuse violations had increased almost 300% between 1991 and 1996, from 6,708 to 19,940. Shalala said the study confirmed "the need to gear more drug-abuse prevention programs toward women and girls." NOW's Elizabeth Toledo said, "We have to teach young women to reject the idea that you have to hurt yourself in order to achieve some social ideal" (Rubinowitz, New York Post, 12/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.