Substance Abuse Treatment Findings Show Risks For Girls

Armen Hareyan's picture

Although girls ages 12-17 made up less than one-third of adolescent treatment admissions in 2005, they began treatment at a younger age than boys and were more likely to have a co-occurring psychiatric disorder.

And while both boys and girls were most often admitted for marijuana treatment, girls were more likely than boys to report alcohol or inhalants as their primary substance of abuse.

Adolescent Treatment Admissions by Gender: 2005 shows about 142,600 admissions of adolescents ages 12-17 to substance abuse treatment in 2005. About 44,600 admissions (31 percent) were for girls, and 98,000 (69 percent) were for boys. Data for the report comes from SAMHSA's Treatment Episode Data Set, which reports numbers of admissions rather than individuals, as a person may be admitted to treatment more than once.


"As we continue to work on reducing youth drug use overall, we must pay special attention to the needs of teen girls," said Terry Cline, Ph.D., SAMHSA Administrator. "Because research shows that girls use alcohol and drugs to boost their confidence, reduce tension and cope with problems, our prevention efforts must address these needs. Intervening early and addressing co-occurring disorders can help girls and boys stay drug-free."

Adolescents admitted with a psychiatric problem in addition to a substance abuse problem were counted as having a co-occurring disorder. Girls were more likely to have such co-occurring disorders, which were reported in 23 percent of the female admissions compared with 18 percent of the male admissions.

Marijuana was listed as the primary substance of abuse for 51 percent of female admissions and 72 percent of male admissions. While alcohol and inhalants ranked second and third respectively for both girls and boys, these substances were more likely to be the primary substance of abuse for girls. Alcohol accounted for 23 percent of female admissions vs. 16 percent of male admissions, and inhalants accounted for 12 percent of female admissions vs. 4 percent of male admissions. Cocaine, opiates and other drugs accounted for about 14 percent for girls, compared with 8 percent for boys.

The number of admissions increased with age for both girls and boys for all substances except inhalants. For most of the adolescent admissions for inhalants, treatment began prior to age 16. Treatment began even younger