Emerging health needs amongst adolescents who regularly use alcohol, cannabis or tobacco
The UK has some of the highest rates of adolescent substance use in Europe, with the result that general population samples present ample opportunity to study these behaviours and their associated outcomes. Despite downward trends in the self-reported prevalence and frequency of substance use in British young people, around one third of young people aged 15 to 16 years have reported hazardous/harmful alcohol use, almost 1 in 5 young people aged 16 to 24 years have reported cannabis use, and 1 in 5 young people aged
Understanding factors that influence the development of harms associated with substance use is important for public health and can indicate targets for preventative interventions. Alcohol remains a leading cause of premature mortality in the UK and is one of the main risks for incident disability adjusted life years (DALYs) among young people aged 10-24 years. Two-thirds of smokers start as teenagers and those who start smoking at a young age are more likely to smoke heavily, find it more difficult to give up, and are at greater risk of developing smoking related diseases. Earlier onset of cannabis use is associated with increased risk of problematic and frequent use. Adolescent use of all these substances in is associated with deficits in cognition, and physical and mental health difficulties as the brain is still developing and undergoing considerable structural and functional changes.
Utilising longitudinal data allows consideration of the temporality and complexity of these relationships. The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) is a world leading birth cohort study providing information on 13,000 children using self-reported questionnaire and interview measures. Substance use (tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis) was assessed regularly from age 10 years, and a range of cognitive, social, physical and mental health outcomes were collected contemporaneously. This allows consideration of causal mechanisms, and excellent confounding control. In addition, biological measures were collected and information from a genome wide scan is available on 3,000 participants. ALSPAC welcomes requests from researchers wishing to access these data and samples from all backgrounds, research areas, locations or funding sources.
This session presents the latest ALSPAC findings on emerging health needs amongst adolescents reporting heavy substance use, and provides a unique opportunity for researchers across Europe to consider how use of ALSPAC data may benefit their own research.