Believe it or not, privilege and status do not necessarily guarantee a life free from substance abuse. A new study has actually revealed that teens that come from affluent families and attend elite high schools, are more at risk for addiction and substance abuse, compared to the national average. While the misconception still exists that drug abuse only affects the poor or those who live in urban areas, this study shows a new point of view. Suniya Luthar, lead study author and professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, mentioned in a university news release, “Results showed that among both men and women and across annual assessments, these young adults had substantial elevation, relative to national norms, in frequency of several indicators – drinking to intoxication and of using marijuana, stimulants such as Adderall, cocaine, and club drugs such as ecstasy.”
The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Development and Psychopathology, analyzed more than 500 students from wealthy communities in the Northeast. The research divided the students into two groups. The first group consisted of 272 participants, which were followed from their senior year of high school and throughout their first four years of college. The second group was made up of 255 participants, and their assessment took place over a ten year period of time, beginning when the participants were high school seniors, continuing through college, and then from the ages of 23 through 27. Each participant completed annual questionnaires and phone interviews with researchers, to evaluate whether or not they met diagnostic criteria for substance abuse, and studied both past month and past year drug and alcohol intake. Although similar studies have linked higher rates of substance abuse with upper-middle class kids, this is the first to study patterns past high school years.
What Were The Results?
The contributors of this study found that by the age of 26, upper-middle class adults were two to three times more likely, compared to the national average, of being diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, including both alcohol and drugs. More specifically, “We found rates of addiction to drugs or alcohol among 19 to 24 percent of women in the older cohort by the age of 26, and 23 to 40 percent among men. These rates were three and two times as high respectively, as compared to national norms,” Luthar told CBS News. In the younger cohort, rates of substances abuse among women were 11 to 16 percent, by the age of 22, which is comparably normal to national rates. Nevertheless, for men in that age range, roughly 19 to 27 percent had an addiction; that is twice the national norm.
Why Kids From Affluent Families May Struggle With Substance Abuse
There are several elements that can contribute to substance abuse and addiction. They usually include genetics, environment, underlying issues such as depression, trauma, and so on. For those who come from affluent families, their chances increase because along with these contributors, several other factors play a role. Unlike most addicts, wealthy teens do not have to worry about how they will buy their drugs and/or alcohol. Along with disposable money at their fingertips, their nice cars get them to parties faster or to the dealer’s house without issue, and they have the resources to obtain the best fake IDs. Furthermore, Luthar suspects that parents may not perceive their teen’s drug use as a serious issue, because they may still be doing well academically, or they believe their child will simply “grow out” of it.
Another major factor that contributes to elite-teen substance abuse, is the pressure these kids are under to succeed. Luthar mentions, “There’s an issue with pressure to accomplish, achieve, and shine not just at academics but at extra-curricular activities as well. With these kids, a line we often hear from them is ‘we work hard and play hard’ – and the playing hard takes a form of parties with alcohol and drugs.”
Clearly, substance abuse is not just a “poor person problem.” Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental deaths across the U.S. Often times, those trapped in the grips of addiction, no matter the drug, began at a young age. They experimented in high school just as these kids are doing now. Maybe they did it to blow off steam or maybe it was peer pressure. Either way, the likelihood of someone suffering from addiction only increases when substance use begins at a younger age and at higher intervals. It is imperative that we not ignore our teens’ behaviors and/or drug use…even if they are still “doing well” in other areas of their life i.e. academically, socially, athletically, etc. Yes, drug use is sometimes a phase many young people go through, but what if that one person that develops an addiction is your child?
Contact Clearbrook For Substance Abuse Treatment
Drug addiction and alcoholism do not discriminate. It does not care where you live or how much money you make. Rich, poor, black, white…it kills us all the same.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, help is available. For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing quality treatment to those diagnosed with alcoholism and/or drug addiction. If you are ready to take the first step, please contact our Admissions Specialists today. We look forward to hearing from you.