VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – When teens are caught drinking
or using marijuana at school, a trip to the dean’s office may not suffice. These
students also should be
screened for exposure to trauma, mental health problems and other serious
health risks, according to a study to be presented Saturday, May 3, at
the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British
found that using substances at school was associated with increased odds of
serious problems such as depression, intimate partner violence and attempting
substance use is not just an isolated event requiring simple disciplinary
action but an important signal identifying teens in need of urgent psychosocial
assessment and support,” said lead author Rebecca N. Dudovitz, MD, MS, FAAP,
assistant professor of pediatrics at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA and the
UCLA Children’s Discovery & Innovation Institute.
Dudovitz and her colleagues analyzed data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior
Survey, a nationally representative survey of more than 15,000 U.S. high school
students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts the survey every
two years to monitor conditions and behaviors that impact adolescent health.
looked at whether at-school alcohol and marijuana use by high school students was
associated with nine other serious health risks, including driving while
intoxicated or riding in a car with a driver who was intoxicated; fighting;
carrying a weapon at school; drinking alcohol or using drugs the last time they
had sex; experiencing intimate partner violence; being forced to have
intercourse; having symptoms of depression; thinking about suicide; and
showed that 9 percent of all students reported using alcohol or marijuana at
school. For both boys and girls, using alcohol or marijuana on campus was
associated with dramatically higher odds of exhibiting all nine serious health
risks than using substances only out-of-school.
example, students who reported using either alcohol or marijuana on school
campus had a 64 percent chance of having been in a car with an intoxicated
driver, a 46 percent chance they had symptoms of depression, a 25 percent
chance they had experienced intimate partner violence and a 25 percent chance
they had attempted suicide.
represent a considerable history of and ongoing risk for immediate harm that
might not otherwise come to the attention of a parent or school official,” Dr.
a student is found using substances at school, we should think of it as a sign
that a child needs help,” she said. “Given the strong association of at-school
substance use with some very serious and dangerous health risks, like having experienced
sexual trauma and attempting suicide, we should not dismiss at-school substance
use as just another school infraction. Instead, it may be a truly urgent call
for caring adults to get involved and help that student access appropriate services.”
Dr. Dudovitz will present “The Association Between At-School
Substance Use and Serious Health Risks” from 4-4:15 p.m. Saturday, May 3. To
view the study abstract, go to http://www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS14L1_1675.6&terms=.
This study was supported
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U48DP001934), the Short Term
Training Program through the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the UCLA
Children's Discovery and Innovation Institute, and NIH/National Center for
Advancing Translational Science (UL1TR000124).
The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) are four
individual pediatric organizations that co-sponsor the PAS Annual Meeting – the
American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, the Academic
Pediatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Members of these
organizations are pediatricians and other health care providers who are
practicing in the research, academic and clinical arenas. The four sponsoring
organizations are leaders in the advancement of pediatric research and child
advocacy within pediatrics, and all share a common mission of fostering the
health and well-being of children worldwide. For more information, visit www.pas-meeting.org. Follow news of the PAS meeting on
Twitter at http://twitter.com/PedAcadSoc.