U.S. Teens With Sexually Active Friends More Likely To Use Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco, Study Finds
U.S. teenagers who report that at least half of their friends are sexually active are more likely to use alcohol, drugs and tobacco than teens who report having fewer sexually active friends, according to the "National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse IX: Teen Dating Practices and Sexual Activity" released yesterday by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, the AP/New York Post reports. For the survey, CASA surveyed by phone 1,000 12- to 17-year-olds between April 16 and May 16 (AP/New York Post, 8/20). According to the survey -- which has been conducted annually for the past nine years -- respondents who said that at least half of their friends are sexually active were 31 times more likely to use alcohol, 5.5 times more likely to smoke cigarettes and 22.5 times more likely to have tried marijuana than their peers who reported fewer sexually active friends, the New York Times reports (Radsch, New York Times, 8/20).
Approximately 25% of the respondents reported that at least half of their friends are sexually active, while 40% of teen respondents said that none of their friends are sexually active, according to the AP/Post (AP/New York Post, 8/20). Fifty-six percent of teens reported that at least one member of their "close circle of friends" is sexually active, with more than 25% of 12-year-olds reporting a sexually active friend and about 75% of 17-year-olds saying that a close friend is sexually active, according to the Washington Post (Sessions Stepp, Washington Post, 8/20). Some of the other study findings include:
- 66% of teens who said that half of their friends are sexually active have tried alcohol, compared with 10% of teens who report having no sexually active friends.
- 31% of teens who reported that half of their friends are sexually active have "gotten drunk" at least once in the past month, compared with only 1% of teens without sexually active friends, according to the survey.
- 45% of teens who reported that half of their friends are sexually active have tried marijuana, compared with 2% of teens without sexually active friends.
- 45% of teens who said that half their friends are sexually active have tried smoking cigarettes, compared 8% of teens who say none of their friends are sexually active (New York Post, 8/20).
- 44% of teens said they believe boys often or sometimes "push girls to drink alcohol or take drugs in order to get the girls to have sex or do other sexual things" (CASA release, 8/19).
- Overall, teens who reported having a boyfriend or girlfriend were more likely to try alcohol, marijuana or cigarettes than teens without a boyfriend or girlfriend. Teens who reported spending 25 hours or more per week with a boyfriend or girlfriend are 2.5 times more likely to drink alcohol, 4.5 times more likely to use marijuana and 2.5 times more likely to smoke cigarettes than teens who reported spending less than 10 hours per week with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
CASA chair Joseph Califano said that the survey is a "clear message for parents," adding, "The thunder of teen sexual activity and dating behavior may signal the lightning of substance abuse." Califano said that the survey does not show that sexual activity causes substance abuse or that substance abuse causes increased sexual activity, according to the New York Times. However, the survey does indicate that sexual behavior and substance abuse are "tightly connected" and that teens with friends who are sexually active are at increased risk for alcohol, drug or tobacco use, Califano said. He also said that there is still "tremendous parental denial" about teenagers and drug use, according to the Times (New York Times, 8/20).
Dr. Wilson Compton, division director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said that research shows that drug use often leads to risky sexual activity rather than the reverse, according to the Los Angeles Times (Lynn Yang, Los Angeles Times, 8/20). Califano said that it is important for parents to know their children's friends and dating practices to help reduce the likelihood of risky behaviors, according to the New York Times (New York Times, 8/20).