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 Article of Interest - Children At-Risk

'Girls 'get hooked' on drugs `faster'
Females fighting stress, depression
by Devlin Barrett, The Toronto Star, February 6, 2003
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Girls and young women are more easily addicted to drugs and alcohol have different reasons than boys for abusing substances and may need single-sex treatment programs to beat back addictions, according to an American study released yesterday.

"They get hooked faster, they get hooked using lesser amounts of alcohol and drugs and cocaine, and they suffer the consequences faster and more severely," said Joseph Califano, chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, which conducted the three-year survey of girls and young women.

"With some exceptions, the substance abuse prevention programs have really been designed with a unisex, one-size-fits-both-sexes mentality," Califano said. "We now know that girls are different than boys. Let's recognize it and let's help them.''

The study, based on a U.S. survey of females, age 8 to 22, found the gender gap is narrowing between boys and girls who smoke, drink and use drugs.

Approximately 45 per cent of high school girls drink alcohol, compared with 49 per cent of boys but girls outpace boys in the use of prescription drugs, the study found.

Boys often experiment with cigarettes, alcohol and drugs in a search for thrills or heightened social status, while girls are motivated by a desire to reduce stress or alleviate depression, the study found.

Girls are also more likely to abuse substances if they reached puberty early, had eating disorders, or were ever physically or sexually abused, researchers said.

Their likelihood of using cigarettes, alcohol or drugs also increases when they move to a new community, or from middle school to high school or from high school to college.

Califano said female substance abusers that were physical abused might not respond well to a group with men. Researchers found some confrontational methods for beating addiction may be the wrong approach for women.

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