Teen drinking, drug use tied to other risky behaviors

(Reuters Health) – Teens who binge drink or abuse prescription opioids may be more likely to engage in other risky behaviors, too, two new studies suggest.

Adolescents who binge drink are more likely to drive drunk or ride with drivers who are under the influence in early adulthood, and they’re also more apt to become extreme binge drinkers who experience blackouts, one of the studies suggests.

Teens are also more apt to engage in risky driving behaviors when they misuse prescription opioids, a second study suggests. When teens abuse opioids, they’re more likely as well to misuse alcohol and other drugs, engage in risky sexual behaviors, experience violence and attempt suicide.

“Substance use such as prescription opioid misuse may alter a misuser’s judgment and cognition, thus potentially increasing likelihood for engagement in other risky behaviors,” said Dr. Devika Bhatia, lead author of the opioid study and a researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

“Additionally, engaging in prescription opioid misuse may have an impact on peer groups that are more likely to engage in other risky behaviors,” Bhatia said by email.

For the opioid study, Bhatia and colleagues examined survey data collected from a nationally-representative sample of almost 15,000 U.S. high school students in 2017. Overall, 14% reported misusing prescription opioids at least once.

With any history of prescription opioid misuse, teens were 23 times more likely to have used heroin, almost 19 times more likely to have tried methamphetamines, over 16 times more likely to have tried cocaine, and more than 10 times as likely to have tried marijuana, researchers report in Pediatrics.

A history of prescription opioid misuse was also associated with five to six times greater odds that teens would try smoking or vaping, as well as a more than quadrupled chance they would have at least four previous sex partners and intercourse without condoms.

In addition, prescription opioid misuse was tied to more than six times the odds of drunk driving.

The second study looked in depth at driving outcomes associated with binge drinking. Researchers followed more than 2,000 teens for about four years starting in their senior year of high school, when 27% of participants reported binge drinking.

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders or funders.

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