One-sixth of adolescent smokers report harder drug use, followed by higher rates of depression

December 14, 2016 by Elizabeth Fernandez, University of California, San Francisco

In a UC San Francisco study of 176 adolescent smokers in San Francisco, 96 percent reported using at least two substances other than cigarettes.

While most used alcohol, marijuana and other tobacco products, 16 percent – or more than one in six teen – reported taking harder drugs, including cocaine, hallucinogens, Ecstasy, and misused prescription medications.

"Most of these adolescents smoked five or fewer cigarettes a day," said lead author Karma McKelvey, MPH, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow with the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. "This tells us that multi-drug use among adolescents may be more prevalent than we think, and that even kids who smoke only occasionally are likely to be doing other drugs."

Teens who reported using harder drugs at the beginning of the study were more likely than other participants to report depressive symptoms one, two and three years later. The proportion of teens reporting harder drug use also remained consistent over the course of the study, McKelvey said, "which implies that patterns of smoking and drug use established in adolescence can be chronic and persist over time."

The study will be published Dec. 12, 2016 in Addictive Behaviors.

McKelvey recommended that depression scores could be used to more accurately identify teenagers who are candidates for drug prevention and cessation programs.

"When you ask a teenager if he or she is a smoker, the most likely answer will be no," she said. "Adolescents do not necessarily identify as smokers, even if they do occasionally smoke cigarettes. However, kids who do not self-identify as smokers are more likely to be overlooked for inclusion in prevention and cessation programs, the idea being that if they don't smoke, they're less likely to drink or do drugs. Instead, let's perhaps look at their depression scores. Let's ask adolescents how they're feeling and doing. Go deeper and find out what's really going on with them."

While the study results contradicted the conventional notion that light smoking progresses to heavy smoking, and none of the teens seemed interested in smoking more as time went on, McKelvey recommended that prevention and cessation programs begin in elementary and middle school.

"We tend not to worry as much about light smokers as we do ," she said. "This study shows us that it's important to intervene as early as possible."

Explore further: Adolescent perceptions about smoking have changed over decade

More information: Karma L. McKelvey et al. Polydrug use among urban adolescent cigarette smokers, Addictive Behaviors (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2016.11.017

Related Stories

Adolescent perceptions about smoking have changed over decade

December 6, 2016
California adolescents perceive smoking cigarettes to be riskier – and less socially acceptable – than they did a dozen years ago, according to a new study that comes amid a changing tobacco product landscape.

Study finds adolescent tobacco users commonly report light smoking

April 30, 2016
A new research abstract being presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) 2016 Meeting reveals new details about teen smoking. Most young smokers report that they don't light up every day, and many smoke only a few ...

No safe level of smoking: Even low-intensity smokers are at increased risk of earlier death

December 5, 2016
People who consistently smoked an average of less than one cigarette per day over their lifetime had a 64 percent higher risk of earlier death than never smokers, and those who smoked between one and 10 cigarettes a day had ...

Teens with asthma almost twice as likely to smoke as their healthy counterparts

November 11, 2016
Curiosity is a driving factor in why most kids start smoking, and the same is true for kids with asthma. A study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting found ...

Flavored e-cigarettes may entice teens to smoke: study

November 7, 2016
(HealthDay)—Fruit- or candy-flavored electronic cigarettes may entice American teens to start smoking tobacco, a new study suggests.

Teen contraband smokers more likely to use illicit drugs

December 16, 2014
A University of Alberta economics professor has discovered a link between contraband cigarette use and illicit drug use among Canadian teens.

Recommended for you

Early postpartum opioids linked with persistent usage

December 14, 2018
Vanderbilt researchers have published findings indicating that regardless of whether a woman delivers a child by cesarean section or by vaginal birth, if they fill prescriptions for opioid pain medications early in the postpartum ...

Drug wholesalers drove fentanyl's deadly rise, report concludes

December 4, 2018
Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid implicated in nearly 29,000 overdose deaths in the United States last year, most likely spread because of heroin and prescription pill shortages, and also because it was cheaper for drug ...

College students choose smartphones over food

November 16, 2018
University at Buffalo researchers have found that college students prefer food deprivation over smartphone deprivation, according to results from a paper in Addictive Behaviors.

Drug overdose epidemic goes far beyond opioids, requires new policies

November 7, 2018
Most government-funded initiatives to address the overdose epidemic in the United States have targeted opioids specifically and have neglected other drugs that are increasingly implicated in overdoses, such as cocaine and ...

Cocaine adulterant may cause brain damage

November 1, 2018
People who regularly take cocaine cut with the animal anti-worming agent levamisole demonstrate impaired cognitive performance and a thinned prefrontal cortex. These findings from two recent studies at the University of Zurich ...

Poverty blamed on widening north-south gap in young adult deaths in England

November 1, 2018
A major study of mortality across England led by University of Manchester data scientists blames socioeconomic deprivation for sharp rises in deaths among 22 to 44-year-olds living in the North of England.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.