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Monday, May 13, 2013

Social Anxiety May Affect When Teens Begin To Use Alcohol and Marijuana

How much do you think about social anxiety?


We have just celebrated Mother's Day and it is a good guess that most mothers hope their children will progress through childhood, adolescence, the teen years and on to adulthood without experiencing social anxiety. However, according Wikipedia:

"According to the US National Comorbidity Survey, social anxiety has a 12-month prevalence rate of 6.8%, placing it as the third most common mental disorder in the U.S. An estimated 19.2 million Americans suffer from social anxiety disorder and it can occur at any time but most often presents in adolescence, early adulthood, or even early childhood. Statistically it is also more common in women than in men."

Many scientists study the causes of social anxiety. They look at biological elements, genetics, environmental factors, family history of anxiety, aversion to stressful situations, parenting styles from rejection to over-protection.

New research examined teens with social anxiety and age of onset of substance abuse


This study was conducted at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The principal investigator was Alexandra Wang, a third year medical student at Case Western Reserve. Co-investigator was Christina Delos Reyes, MD, a psychiatrist specializing in addictions at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ms Wang presented the findings at American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 44th Annual Medical-Scientific Conference, which was held in Chicago from April 25-28, 2013.

Study's parameters


  •  The study involved 195 teens
  • 52% were girls (102)
  • Age range was 14 to 18
  • Each had a current diagnosis of substance use disorder
  • Researchers assessed each teen's history of drug and alcohol use, as well as a history of social anxiety disorder, panic disorder or agoraphobia.

Study's findings


According to a PsychCentral article the researchers presented the following results:
  • Marijuana was the most popular drug of choice. 
  • Of the 195 participants, 92 percent had marijuana dependence, starting at a mean age of 13 years; 
  • 61 percent were alcohol-dependent, having started drinking at 13.5 years on average. 
  • Teens with either social anxiety disorder or panic disorder were far more likely to have marijuana dependence.
  • Both of these disorders were more likely to occur before marijuana dependence. 
  • Approximately 80 percent of teens with social anxiety disorder and 85 percent with panic disorder had symptoms of that disorder before the onset of their substance abuse. 
  • Furthermore, panic disorder tended to start before alcohol dependence and occurred in 75 percent of alcohol-dependent adolescents. 
  • Among teens with substance use disorders, those who also have social anxiety disorder begin using marijuana at a mean age of 10.6 years — an average of 2.2 years earlier than teens without anxiety.

Going forward...


This is a small study, but with interesting results. Parents and teachers should be proactive if they see signs of anxiety disorders in their children or students.

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