RVNA Today: Teens at elite high schools appear to have a higher risk for addiction

New research recently published by Arizona State University suggests that teens at elite high schools appear to face a higher risk of addiction as young adults.  

The study included more 500 students from affluent communities in the northeast who were assessed annually from senior year of high school to late-twenties, which showed that these young adults had substantial elevations in indicators relative to national norms.  

Indicators included drinking to intoxication, use of marijuana, stimulants such as adderall and cocaine, and club drugs like ecstasy. Rates of addiction to drugs or alcohol were two times higher in groups of men and three times higher in groups of women in their late-twenties.  

In the younger age groups, addiction rates were not dramatically different than the national norm for women, but were twice as high as the norm for young men.  

Although paradoxical, it seems that privileged youth may start experimenting earlier and more often with alcohol and drugs and could be among the groups at highest risk for addiction in adulthood.  

Researchers offer possible reasons for this including pressure to succeed, having the money needed to buy drugs and alcohol, peer approval of substance abuse and parents’ lack of awareness.   

In addition, as teens, young people feel intense pressure to get into ever more competitive colleges, requiring that they develop extensive “resumes” to have a chance at a spot. Associated stress can result in self-medication and the potential for serious addiction.  

The study author would like to see more research on young people who grow up in affluent, high- achieving environments and how addiction risks can be reduced. Communities and schools offer programs and counseling to help youth and their families better cope with these stressors.  

It is important to keep the lines of communication open and not ignore a problem with the hope that it will disappear.