Aggressive teens more likely to try tobacco, pot
NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - Among young adolescents, aggression is
linked to a likelihood of experimenting with
cigarettes or marijuana for the first time, while
impulsivity confers a greater risk of trying
alcohol, a new study shows.
the researchers found no association between
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
and substance-use initiation.
Dr. Monique Ernst
of the National Institute of Mental Health in
Bethesda, Maryland and her colleagues sought to
determine whether a psychiatric diagnosis like
ADHD or behavioral measures such as level of
aggression or impulsivity might influence the risk
that a child would try pot, cigarettes or alcohol
for the first time. They followed 78 12- to
14-year-old boys and girls, 50 of whom had been
diagnosed with ADHD.
Four years after
the study had begun, 37 of the participants had
not tried substances, 41 had tried at least one,
and 29 had experimented with more than one. Just
three cases could be defined as substance abuse,
as opposed to substance use.
Kids who used
tobacco were more aggressive and hyperactive and
had more trouble with attention and learning than
nonsmokers, the researchers report in the medical
journal Pediatrics. Statistical analysis found
that a child's level of aggressiveness was
independently tied to tobacco use. Aggression also
independently predicted marijuana use.
characteristic associated with trying alcohol was
impulsivity. This suggests, the investigators
note, that there may be different biological
factors that make a person vulnerable to starting
to use a particular substance.
also found that aggressive teens were more likely
to use substances heavily and to try more
However, Ernst and
her colleagues found that children with ADHD, ADHD
plus conduct disorder, depression or anxiety were
no more likely to try substances than their peers
without a psychiatric diagnosis. The team suggests
that it may make more sense to identify at-risk
teens by looking at the severity of certain
behavioral symptoms, rather than any particular
initiation confers vulnerability for later
substance abuse, and a better understanding of its
behavioral predictors can help to shape preventive
measures at both the individual and societal
levels," they conclude.