June 29, 2010 -- Teenage girls may be more easily lured by drugs and alcohol than teenage boys, according to a new survey conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
Why? Teenage girls are more likely to perceive benefits from alcohol and drug use. In fact, close to 70% of teenage girls agreed that "using drugs helps kids deal with problems at home," the survey shows. This is up 11% from a similar survey conducted in 2008. More than half of teenage girls surveyed said that drugs can also help them forget about their problems.
Teenage boys in 2009 were also more likely to say drugs help them relax in a social setting and that parties were more fun with drugs, when compared with similar data from the previous year's survey.
The new survey also showed an 11% uptick in alcohol use by teenage girls. This increase was markedly higher than what was seen among teenage boys (2% increase). What's more, the use of marijuana by teenage girls in the past year was 29% higher than it was during the 2008 survey. Teenage boys' use of marijuana increased by 15% from 2008 to 2009, the survey showed.
"Parents need to understand that girls today are just as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as boys because they need more help managing stress and dealing with problems," Tom Hedrick, founding member of Partnership for a Drug-Free America, tells WebMD.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America is a nonprofit group based in New York City that is aimed at understanding, preventing, and treating alcohol and drug abuse among children and teens.
"Teen girls used to be less likely to be abusers of alcohol and drugs than boys, but they are catching up. And unfortunately parents still think that boys are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and are less likely to be attuned to the signs in their daughters," he says.
Some warning signs of drug or alcohol abuse in teens may be falling grades, changes in sleeping patterns, withdrawal from family and friends, and less interest and enthusiasm about life, Hedrick says.
"Sometimes, these are just commons signs of being a teenager, but when you wrap it all together and see a change in their outlook toward life, it's time to get it checked with your physician or a therapist," Hedrick says.
"Trust your instincts. When you think there is a problem, act," he says. "Have a conversation with your daughter about what is going on and listen."
The 2009 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study is sponsored by the MetLife Foundation. It included data on attitudes about drug and alcohol use among 3,287 high-school-aged teens from private, public, and parochial schools.