Teen Driver's License Ups Chances of Drug Abuse

Study finds being away from adult supervision can lead to trouble

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FRIDAY, Sept. 10, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- High school students are more likely to smoke, drink and use marijuana when they get their driver's license because they get more opportunities to be free of adult supervision, says a University of Missouri-Columbia study.

"The increase in substance use in all three categories after getting a license supports the notion that new drivers have more opportunities for use," study author Denis McCarthy, an assistant psychology professor, said in a prepared statement.

This is the first study to examine the link between changes in alcohol and other drug use by teens after they get a driver's license. The study included 2,865 high school students who were surveyed about alcohol, cigarette and marijuana use.

The results showed that students were more likely to be involved in substance abuse after they initially obtained a driving license. At the same time, these same students showed an increased awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving.

"For drinking and driving, it may be that newly licensed drivers have a period of 'protection' or perceived vulnerability, but that their drinking and driving behaviors become riskier with more driving experience. Understanding what influences this effect may help drinking and driving intervention efforts," McCarthy said.

The study appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about teens and drinking.

SOURCE: University of Missouri-Columbia, news release, September 2004

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