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Teen Substance Abuse Often Continues into Middle Age

Young people who misuse drugs and alcohol are at a greater risk for continuing this behavior into their middle-aged years, according to research by Yasmina Molero Samuelson at Sweden’s Center for Psychiatric Research (CPF), Karolinska Institutet.

They are also more likely to suffer from physical, financial and mental health problems and experience more accidents, suicide attempts and premature death.

“What we can see is that adolescent antisocial behavior, manifested through substance misuse and delinquency, significantly increases the risk of various types of psychosocial problems in adulthood, even into middle age,” said Samuelson.

Samuelson analyzed two large groups of adolescents who had been in treatment for drug use at a clinic in Stockholm, Sweden during the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s.  The analysis ended in 2002, and the participants were compared to two matched samples from the average population.

The results revealed that teens treated for substance abuse continued to suffer from psychosocial problems well after treatment, even up to age 50, to a far greater extent than those in the matched samples. They also had a higher risk of experiencing several coexisting problems in adulthood.

Interestingly, females with substance abuse issues and delinquency showed an equal risk of developing psychosocial problems as adults as their male counterparts.  A significant number of girls who were treated at the clinic committed crimes in both adolescence and adulthood. Overall, the crimes committed by both males and females included non-violent crimes, violent crimes, and substance-related crimes.

“This emphasizes the importance of early and effective interventions in order to prevent a negative development that risks being maintained for most of a person’s life,” said Samuelson.

The variety of problems still experienced well into adulthood suggests that treatment interventions during teen years should not only focus on the specific substance abuse or delinquency, but should also evaluate and treat problems in other areas of life as well.

“The results also clearly show the importance of not overlooking young girls in these types of contexts, since they too demonstrate severe antisocial behavior, and are equally at risk of developing problems throughout their lives as their male counterparts,” said Samuelson.

Source:  Karolinska Institutet

Teen Substance Abuse Often Continues into Middle Age

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Teen Substance Abuse Often Continues into Middle Age. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 11 Feb 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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