Sleep-Deprived Teens More Likely to Abuse Drugs

Sleep-Deprived Teens More Likely to Abuse Drugs

 A new study by the researchers at University of California San Diego suggests that sleep-deprived teens are more likely to use drugs, thereby increasing their vulnerability to dependence.

The research, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute on Aging, and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, has been published in the journal PloS ONE.

Poor sleep patterns and drug habits are two habits that may spread easily in an adolescent’s social group, and one may influence the other. According to lead researcher Sara C. Mednick, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the VA San Diego Healthcare System, this is the first investigation of the spread of illegal drug use in social networks. It is also the first study in age population on the spread of sleep behaviors through social networks.

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health were analyzed to determine how sleep deprivation and the spread of drug use within social groups are related. About 8,349 teens in grades 7 through 12 were studied for a period of eight years. Each of these participants was asked to name five friends who also participated in the study.

The findings of the study revealed that participants belonging to the same large social group with poor sleep had tried marijuana. It was also found that teens’ sleep and drug habits are influenced by their friends and even the friends of their friends.

"Our behaviors are all connected to each other and we need to start thinking about how one behavior affects our lives on many levels. Therefore, when parents, schools, and law enforcement want to look for ways to influence one outcome, such as drug use, our research suggests that targeting another behavior, like sleep, may have a positive influence," says Mednick.

It is difficult to predict which teenager would take up drugs but will quit and who will progress to dependency. Instilling good habits like limiting hours of watching television and spending time in front of the computer, using the phone only during daytime and early evening hours, and promoting getting a good night’s sleep may help.

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