Created and Shared from Trust for America's Health and Well Being Trust

Addressing a Crises: Cross Sector Strategies to Prevent Adolescent Substance Use and Suicide

Created and Shared from Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust

The report highlights that adolescent suicide deaths have spiked over the last decade and substance misuse including vaping is exacting a heavy toll on teens.

While progress has been made in reducing some risky behaviors, adolescent suicide and substance misuse rates remain high and in some cases are climbing.  For example, suicide rates among 12- to 19-year-olds have increased a staggering 87 percent between 2007 and 2017 — making suicide the second leading cause of death among adolescents.

In just one year, 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use by high school students increased 78 percent and by 48 percent among middle school students.  (See Report for Data Sources.)  More teens are also reporting vaping marijuana.  Vaping can be particularly harmful during this stage of life because nicotine–which is in most e-cigarettes–is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development.  Young people who use e-cigarettes may also be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.

More teenagers are also reporting vaping marijuana, which poses the risk of earlier and more frequent use, increasing probability of problematic use or addiction to marijuana as teen agers enter adulthood.

Most striking is the high level of substance misuse and suicide-related behaviors among sexual minority adolescents.  Suicide-related behaviors are three to four times greater for gay, lesbian, and bisexual high school students compared with heterosexual high school students.  Other substance use is one and a half to two times greater among gay, lesbian, and bisexual high school students compared with their heterosexual peers.

Substance misuse and suicide disproportionately affect adolescents from certain racial/ethnic groups.  American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) teens experience the highest rate of suicide among any population group in the United States:

  • 16 suicides per 100,000 15- to 19-year-olds in 2016, 60 percent higher than the national average.
  • Reservation-based American Indian 8th-graders reported substantially higher past-30-day alcohol, marijuana, cigarette, and illicit drug use than the U.S. average during the 2016-2017 school year.  They had:
    • over twice the relative risk of using alcohol and illicit drugs,
    • over three times the relative risk of binge drinking, and
    • over four times the relative risk of tobacco and marijuana use.

The report calls for the expansion of evidence-based and cross-sector strategies in order to save lives.  It offers specific recommendations.

See report and press release below:

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