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Violence and Substance Abuse

Exposure to Violence Linked to Substance Use in Teens (The Nemours Foundation) Children and teens who witness violence or who are victims of violence in their communities are more likely to use dangerous substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs, say researchers from Belgium, Russia, and the United States. A total of 958 Belgian teens, 1,036 Russian teens, and 1,386 American teens between 14 and 17 years old participated in a survey of violence exposure and substance use. Teens were asked to identify whether they had ever been beaten up or mugged, threatened, shot or shot at with a gun, attacked or stabbed with a knife, chased by gangs or individuals, or seriously wounded in a violent incident. In addition, teens were asked whether they had ever witnessed the same events. Teens were also asked whether and how often they smoked, used marijuana, drank alcohol, or used other drugs such as stimulants, heroin, and LSD. Finally, teens were asked whether they had started a fist fight, participated in a gang fight, hurt someone badly in a fight, or carried a weapon in the past year. In all three countries, teens who were exposed to more violence had higher rates of smoking, alcohol use, marijuana use, and other drug use. Exposure to violence in the United States was not as strongly related to substance use as it was in Russia or Belgium. What This Means to You: Although the results of this study do not prove cause and effect, they suggest that teens who are exposed to violence may be more likely to turn to the use of...

Some Adolescent Violence Is Predictable

CHICAGO, May 16 (Reuters Health) – Adolescents who are exposed to violence, abuse alcohol or drugs and have only one parent are at increased risk of killing someone, Dr. Robert Zagar and colleagues from the University of Illinois reported here at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting. Dr. Zagar’s team used data from the juvenile court system in Chicago to develop a set of tools to predict the risk of violence in adolescents that they presented in a report called “Asking the Right Questions to Find Teenage Killers.” Mental health professionals, school counselors and youth officers can use the system to prevent future tragedies like the Columbine High School killings, the researchers report. “The object is not to label them and punish them, but to find them and provide them with services,” Dr. Zagar said during a press briefing. Dr. Zagar and his colleagues compared risk factors for three groups of youth: 101 convicted killers, 101 non-violent youth offenders and a control group of 101 teens from the community. Adolescents with violence in the family, child abuse, gang membership, and alcohol and drug use are at twice the risk of killing someone compared with teenagers without these risk factors, Dr. Zagar said. When those factors are combined with access to weapons, previous arrests, learning problems, and truancy, the teen is four times more likely to become a killer than other youths, he added. For those with an arrest record or a history of school suspensions, the warning signs are obvious. But too often they are missed, Dr. Zagar said. “That means the psychologist, the parent and the teacher, they...

Violence-Related Behaviors in Adolescents

A Cross-national Study of Violence-Related Behaviors in Adolescents June 2004— “Violent behavior among adolescents is a significant problem worldwide, and a cross-national comparison of adolescent violent behaviors can provide information about the development and pattern of physical violence in young adolescents. Smith-Khuri and colleagues examined frequencies of adolescent violence-related behaviors in 5 countries and associations between violence-related behaviors and potential explanatory characteristics.” “A significant body of information currently exists describing violent behavior in the adolescent population of the United States, yet violent behavior in adolescents outside and in relation to the United States is not well characterized. Comparison of violence-related behaviors in US youths with those of their peers in other countries can provide a context for the US findings. Our analysis found that for 3 violence-related behaviors—fighting, weapon carrying, and injuries from fighting—adolescents from 5 European countries were remarkably similar in terms of frequencies, whereas the results were not as uniform cross-nationally for involvement in bullying. This cross-national comparison allows circumspection on whether violent behavior in adolescence is more a function of environmental, cultural, and political influences or to what extent it is part of the normal developmental process of adolescence.” For reference see:  The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent...
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