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Teens who smoke more likely to use alcohol and other drugs

Ninety-six percent of young smokers in San Francisco have used at least two or more other substances, states a new study funded by the National Cancer Institute.

UCSF polled 176 youth for the study, and in doing so, discovered that even light smokers admitted to using either alcohol or other drugs.

“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.”

The results showed that 16 percent of young smokers polled had taken hard drugs, such as cocaine, mushrooms, ecstasy or prescription medications. In addition, teenagers who stated that they used hard drugs were more likely to suffer from depression several years later.

“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.”

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