CDC Report Indicates Teens Are Seeking To Escape Worries And Stress Through Drug Use

The findings arrive amid a rise in depression and anxiety among teens in the U.S., along with unprecedented levels of hopelessness.

New research published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday indicates that teens with suspected substance abuse problems are turning to drugs to relax and for mental, emotional and physical relief.

The report focused on 15,963 assessments from teens ages 13 to 18 and their responses to online questions about their motivation to use various substances, including marijuana and alcohol.

According to the data, 73% of respondents said they use substances to “feel mellow, calm, or relaxed,” and 50% said they use them to have fun or experiment. In addition, 44% said they use drugs such as marijuana as a sleep aid, and another 44% indicated that drugs help them “to stop worrying about a problem or to forget bad memories.”

The report also found that 40% said they take drugs to cope with depression or anxiety. While most reported that they use substances with friends, half of the respondents who said they’d misused prescription drugs in the past 30 days said they took the substances when alone.

Separate studies from the CDC have shown a rise in depression and anxiety among teens in the U.S. as well as unprecedented levels of hopelessness.

“It might make sense that teens are looking for ways to reduce stress and anxiety,” Sarah Connolly, the lead author of the report, told ABC News. Connolly, an epidemic intelligence service officer in the CDC’s Division of Overdose Prevention, explained that substance abuse is often linked to depression and anxiety.

The research, which is the first of its kind to look into the motivation behind teen substance use, indicates that reducing stress and promoting mental health could help to lessen teens’ motivation to use drugs, as can educating teens on harm reduction practices.

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