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Bored Teens More Likely to Drink, Take Drugs
By Jill Gonzalez
Boredom can be a dangerous thing, particularly for impressionable teenagers who are full of energy and looking for things to keep them occupied nearly every waking hour of each day. It should not be very surprising, then, to discover that boredom is a risk factor for alcohol and drug use among teens and young adults.
But teens are the only ones for whom boredom can cause problems. Being bored is also a contributing factor to excessive drug and alcohol use among adults, and it is a leading cause of relapse among adults who are recovering addicts.
For the most part, though, boredom is a more serious issue for teenagers because they are more likely to find themselves with larger chunks of time in which they have absolutely nothing to do. With adulthood come greater responsibilities, including work and family obligations. Teenagers do not have these types of responsibilities to deal with, which puts them at a greater risk for getting into trouble during those times when they do not have anything to do that holds their interest.
Alcohol abuse, drug use and boredom have been linked by researchers and physicians for quite some time. The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VIII: Teens and Parents has determined that teenagers are more likely to drink, smoke, and use drugs if they are frequently bored, under a lot of stress, or have unusually large amounts of spending money given to them each week.
According to one recent study conducted by this group, teenage substance abuse continues to be on the rise:
- Teens are 50 percent more likely to drink, smoke, get drunk, and use drugs out of boredom.
- Approximately 52 percent of teenagers in the United States regularly use drugs or alcohol simply because they are bored.
- The average age of first use is 12 for alcohol and 13 for drugs.
While a teen’s friends play a significant role in determining whether they will try drugs or alcohol (and whether they will become regular users), an equally important factor is the type of relationship that teens have with their parents.
Parents and guardians are role models for children. Even if you think that you are the last person your kids are going to look to for advice regarding how they should conduct themselves, the reality is that your children are likely to emulate the behaviors that they see you and your spouse actively engaging in.
A Cure for Teen Boredom?
If you are an adult and you find yourself turning to drugs or alcohol simply in an effort to relieve boredom, you need to think about your life and the activities that you are participating in on a regular basis. If boredom is the issue, there are a variety of different hobbies, volunteer pursuits and other activities that you can participate in that will help to fill up those hours where you find yourself with nothing constructive to do.
For teenagers, boredom is an issue that is a bit more complex to deal with simply because parents play such a huge role in helping their children to find activities to keep them busy. If you are a parent, you need to take an active interest in (and responsibility for) keeping your child actively involved in endeavors that are productive and healthy. They don’t necessarily have to be educational or athletic pursuits, but they do need to be activities that will keep your children involved, interested, and without enough measurable time to spare to dwell on being bored.
To help your teenagers stay occupied when they are not in school, encourage their participation in projects that will keep them busy and out of trouble. Try to get your kids interested in after school activities that are supervised by adults. This is particularly important for kids who are home alone for a few hours every day after school, as school sponsored activities will help children to stay occupied and will keep their minds actively engaged.
If your kids are old enough to work for a few hours after school each day, encourage them to get a job. This will not only keep them busy and prevent them from feeling bored, it will also take up a pretty healthy amount of time which they might otherwise spend mindlessly hanging out with their friends or getting involved in something that you would prefer they avoid.
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- Things to Consider Before You Ship Your Teen Off to Boot Camp