*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
It’s never good news that kids are using drugs and alcohol, but fewer U.S. teens are starting before their 16th birthday, a new study finds.
Researchers found that between 2004 and 2017, the age at which teens started drinking alcohol and smoking rose from 16 to 17 years. The age for trying heroin went from 17 to 18, and for cocaine, it increased from 18 to 19 years. For crack cocaine, opioids, and some other drugs, however, no increase in age was seen.
“We think this is great news because delaying initiation of drugs prevents early exposure, which we know is associated with various long-term negative health outcomes,” said lead researcher Karl Alcover, a postdoctoral research associate at Washington State University, in Spokane.
The only significant exception to these positive trends has been vaping of nicotine and THC (the chemical in marijuana that provides a high), which has increased dramatically in recent years and continues to be a public health crisis.
Using the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 2004 to 2017, Alcover’s team collected data on young people aged 12 and older. More than 84,000 reported trying any drug.
The researchers found that the average age when someone started using 12 of 18 drugs rose. These included alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy, hallucinogens, heroin, inhalants, LSD, marijuana, stimulants, cigars, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
However, for crack cocaine, methamphetamines, opioids, PCP, sedatives and tranquilizers, no statistically significant changes were found in the age of introduction.
The report was published online in JAMA Pediatrics.