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One in 10 Mentally Ill Teens Frequently Use Alcohol, Cigarettes and Marijuana

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About 10 percent of young teens with mental illness frequently use alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana, a new Australian study suggests. This substance abuse pattern becomes more common as teenagers grow older.

Researchers at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute said substance abuse among teens with mental illness is likely to contribute to increased risk of poor physical and mental health outcomes.

The study included more than 2,000 participants ages 12 to 30, who were involved in a national mental health program. They submitted information on their weekly use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, Red Orbit reports. The study found 12 percent of participants ages 12 to 17 consumed alcohol at least once a week, compared with 39 percent of those ages 18 and 19, and almost half of those ages 20 to 30. The youngest teens were twice as likely to say they drank alcohol every week as their peers in the general population.

About 7 percent of teens used marijuana at least once a week, compared with 14 percent of those ages 18 and 19, and 18 percent of those between ages 20 to 30.

An estimated 23 percent of teens smoked cigarettes daily, compared with 36 percent of older teens, and 41 percent of those between 20 and 30.

The findings are published in the British Medical Journal Open.

“Traditionally there have been mental health services, and substance abuse services, but both have been quite separate. Our study shows that we need to integrate mental health interventions with substance use interventions in order to help at-risk young people,” lead researcher Dr. Daniel Hermens said in a news release. “There is a lot of evidence for the co-morbidity of mental health problems and substance misuse. More people have both mental health and substance use problems than either alone – in other words, it’s the rule rather than the exception.”

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