Study: Addictions begin in high school

June 29, 2011 1:49:46 PM PDT
For anyone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, 9 times out of 10 that addiction began in high school. This is all according to a new report by CASA - the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, which calls adolescent substance use America's #1 public health problem.

Susan Foster is the Director of Policy Research at CASA. Their study found that 75% of all high school students report having used an addictive substance like alcohol, marijuana or cocaine. One in 5 meets the criteria for an addiction. Foster's office holds a collection of addictive products she says are marketed to children.

"The alcohol industry knows as tobacco industry - the best way to get a lifetime heavy user is to start them really early," Foster said.

Whether or not you or someone you know is battling addiction, chances are you are helping to pay for it.

According to this new report, substance use and addiction is costing the U.S. government 468 billion dollars a year - and all of that is your taxpayer money.

So why is the problem worse for teens? New research shows that the brains of teenagers are more vulnerable to drugs. That is because the parts involved in judgment and impulse control are not fully developed, and the sense of reward is more intense.

Foster says that pop culture and celebrity behavior, which can be seen online every day, are also to blame for this problem.

"The whole culture is oriented to telling kids that it's not only ok, but that there's some benefit to taking these drugs," Foster explains.