Survey: Sex, drugs mixed in teens' lives

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) For teenagers, it appears that sex and drugs do go together, though the annual survey of U.S. teens didn't ask about rock 'n' roll.

Teens who say at least half their friends are having sex are more likely to report having tried marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes, according to a survey released last month by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

The survey asked teens between 12 and 17 about their use of illegal substances. Researchers then looked at other teen activities to see if those who used drugs had anything else in common.

''This year's survey reveals a tight connection between teen sexual behavior and substance abuse,'' said Joseph A. Califano Jr., president of the Columbia center.

''Parents who become aware of certain dating and sexual behavior by their children should be alert to the increased likelihood of substance abuse,'' he said.

In a separate effort to discourage underage drinking, the children's cable TV channel Nickelodeon and an advocacy group, The Century Council, announced an initiative last month to reach out to kids and parents. ''Ask, Listen and Learn'' aims to educate kids about the issue and to help parents talk with their kids about underage drinking. It is to include booklets, Web sites and TV public service ads aimed at both groups.

Unlike other surveys, the one by the Columbia center did not ask teens about their own sexual activity, but asked them to estimate how many of their friends were sexually active. It was conducted this way because the ethical review board that oversees the center would not approve of a direct question, said Lauren Duran, a spokesperson for the center.

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