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Dramatic Differences Found in American and European Teenage Substance Use

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Surveys of American and European teenagers have found dramatic differences between the two groups’ substance use. While American teens smoke and drink less than their European peers, they are more likely to use illegal drugs.

The results come from coordinated school surveys about substance use that include more than 100,000 students around Europe. They are largely modeled on the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey in the United States, making comparisons possible between the American and European results.

The United States had the second lowest proportion of students who used alcohol and tobacco, compared with teens in 36 European countries, HealthCanal reports. Among American students, 27 percent drank alcohol in the month before the survey. The average rate in Europe was 57 percent. Twelve percent of American students smoked cigarettes in the month before the survey, compared with an average of 28 percent in Europe.

Eighteen percent of American teens reported using marijuana or hashish in the previous month, compared with an average of 7 percent among European teens. American teens reported the highest level of marijuana availability. The U.S. had the lowest proportion of teens who associated use of marijuana with great risk, according to Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the American surveys.

American teens were more likely than European students to have tried any illicit drugs other than marijuana, including hallucinogens, Ecstasy and amphetamines.

“Clearly the U.S. has attained relatively low rates of use for cigarettes and alcohol, though not as low as we would like,” Johnston said in a news release. “But the level of illicit drug use by adolescents is still exceptional here.”

1 Response to this article

  1. maxwood / June 6, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Marijuana and hashish are indeed less risky in the United States than in Europe, due to the fact that in Europe youngsters are likely to be handed a “joint” with addictive tobacco mixed in– and that may be a major reason why fewer teens in America are hooked on cigarettes than in Europe. Derek Williams, on the UKCIA website, claims that two-thirds of British cannabis users today are using the “mixed” joint format. The Dutch language Wikipedia “joint” article used to mention a theory widespread in Europe that the word “joint” (from French “joindre”) actually refers to a joining of cannabis with tobacco.

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