Frequent marijuana use and alcohol binging substantially decrease the odds that a teenager will manage to stop smoking, a study published in 2014 in the journal Substance Abuse finds.
Significant numbers of American teenagers smoke addictive, nicotine-containing cigarettes. In addition, most adult smokers first started using cigarettes during adolescence. Sizable numbers of American teens also abuse the recreational drug marijuana and/or participate in the highly dangerous form of alcohol consumption called binge drinking.
In 2014, a team of U.S. researchers analyzed the impact that marijuana consumption and binge drinking have on the odds that a teen smoker will successfully stop smoking and establish a pattern of nicotine abstinence.
Teens And Cigarette Use
An annual National Institute on Drug Abuse-sponsored project called Monitoring the Future tracks cigarette use in a nationally representative group of teenagers enrolled in 8th, 10th and 12th grades. Results from this project indicate that, in 2013 (the last fully reported year), 16.3 percent of all high school seniors smoked cigarettes experimentally, periodically or regularly in the average month. The monthly rate for cigarette use among 10th graders was 9.1 percent, while the rate among 8th graders was 4.5 percent. Thousands of teenagers start smoking every day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. In addition, every day, thousands of teens and younger adults who previously smoked only periodically undergo a transition to daily or near-daily use. Due in large part to the heightened adolescent susceptibility to the addictive properties of nicotine, almost 90 percent of adult smokers started out as teen smokers.
Teens And Marijuana Use
Nearly 23 percent of all U.S. high school seniors use marijuana or some other cannabis product on a monthly basis, the 2013 Monitoring the Future figures show (a rate higher than the rates reported for college students or young adults). The monthly rate for marijuana/cannabis use among 10th graders is 18 percent, while the rate among 8th graders is 7 percent. Six percent to 7 percent of all high school seniors use marijuana/cannabis every day or nearly every day; the rates for daily or near-daily use in 10th and 8th graders are 4 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.
Teens And Binge Drinking
For men and boys, binge drinking is defined as consuming at least five drinks (enough to get drunk) in a single session of alcohol consumption. For girls and women, the necessary amount of alcohol consumption falls to four drinks. The 2013 Monitoring the Future figures indicate that 22.1 percent of high school seniors binge drink at least one time in the average two-week span of time. Nearly 14 percent of 10th graders binge drink in the same average timeframe, while 5.1 percent of 8th graders binge drink this frequently.
Impact On Smoking Cessation
In the study published in Substance Abuse, researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine and the Veterans Administration used data gathered from 804 cigarette-using adolescents to gauge the impact that marijuana intake and binge drinking have on teens’ ability to quit smoking. All of the participants smoked one cigarette or more in the 30 days prior to the start of the study. Some of these individuals had attempted to quit smoking at least one time in the past, while others had not attempted to halt their cigarette use. The researchers used a statistical analysis to establish a connection between the success of cigarette quit attempts and relative levels of involvement in marijuana use and alcohol binging.
After completing their statistical analysis, the researchers concluded that two substance-related behaviors substantially decrease the chances that a teenager will manage to stop smoking: using marijuana seven or more times a month and participating in binge drinking six or more times a month. Frequent marijuana use has a slightly more damaging impact on smoking cessation than frequent binge drinking. The researchers concluded that teenage boys, in particular, are substantially less likely to quit smoking cigarettes when they frequently consume marijuana.
It’s important to note that both frequent marijuana use and frequent binge drinking have serious health implications for teenagers regardless of any link to cigarette use. Roughly 17 percent of teens who consume marijuana with any regularity will develop a diagnosable cannabis addiction; in habitual users, the addiction rate rises to 25 percent to 50 percent. Even a single episode of binge drinking can result in life-threatening exposure to consequences such as motor vehicle crashes, alcohol poisoning and physical assaults. Regular binge drinking steeply increases the risks for diagnosable alcohol abuse and/or alcoholism.
Learn More: 20 Facts About Drugs And Alcohol For Teens