Drinking, Drug Abuse Continues Into Middle Age

Study finds it's still surprisingly common among Americans at age 35

TUESDAY, Jan. 13, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A surprisingly high number of 35-year-old American women and men abuse alcohol and use illicit drugs.

So says a University of Michigan (U-M) study in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The study of 7,541 people found more than 32 percent of men reported heavy drinking, defined as at least five drinks in a row, at least once in the two weeks before they were surveyed. Nearly 13 percent of men and 7 percent of women reported the use of marijuana in the previous month. Eight percent of women and 7 percent of men reported they misused prescription drugs in the previous year.

"We found that substance abuse was surprisingly prevalent at the start of midlife. And we also found that it is not restricted to stereotypical drug users with low socioeconomic status," study author Alicia Merline, of the U-M Institute for Social Research, says in a prepared statement.

She and her colleagues found professionals are as likely to use marijuana as people in other jobs. Nearly 10 percent of men with professional jobs reported marijuana use.

The researchers also found a strong link between cigarette smoking at age 35 and a person's high school experience. People who smoked in Grade 12 were 12 times more likely to be smokers at age 35, compared to those who had never smoked by their senior year of high school.

The odds of being a smoker were 42 times greater for people who were daily smokers when they were in Grade 12.

Even just trying cigarettes in high school increased the odds of smoking at age 35 by more than three times compared to people who never tried cigarettes in high school.

The researchers identified similar patterns for episodic heavy drinking and for the use of marijuana and illicit drugs. For example, people who drank heavily in Grade 12 were three times more likely to be heavy drinkers at age 35 than those who weren't heavy drinkers when they were high school seniors.

People who had tried marijuana by Grade 12 were eight times more likely to use marijuana at age 35. And those who had tried any other illicit drug other than marijuana by their senior year were five times more likely to use cocaine and three times more likely to misuse prescription drugs at age 35.

The study found married women and men are much less likely to smoke, drink heavily, use marijuana or other illicit drugs, or to misuse prescription medicines than people who are single, divorced or separated.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Jan. 6, 2004
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