Substance use: A top health issue for children & teens

Each year, the National Poll on Children’s Health asks adults across the country to name their top concerns for the health of the children and teens in their communities. The 2014 Top Ten Report will be released in a few weeks and to get ready for it, we’re blogging about some of the top health issues from the past several years.

Drug abuse, smoking and tobacco use, and alcohol abuse have been three of the top 10 health concerns over the past several years. Substance use leads to several health complications, including death, and adolescents who use substances have a higher likelihood of continuing use in adulthood. That’s why doctors often focus on preventing youth substance use before it becomes a lasting problem.

This week, new research was published on screening adolescents for substance use to find out who is at risk for using. The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and published in JAMA Pediatrics. The researchers designed an electronic tool to screen adolescents into substance use risk categories. The screening tool took less than one minute to complete and enabled doctors to identify adolescents at risk for three different substance use disorders.

Researchers are hopeful that improved screening tools like this one will help doctors intervene with patients who are at risk before substance use becomes a major problem in their lives.

Is substance use a major health concern for the youth in your community? What do you think will be the top 10 health concerns in 2014? Here’s the 2013 list:

Top 10 Child Health Concerns

Share your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter @CSMottPoll.