Substance Use Among Pregnant Teenagers

teen-pregnancyA new study has found that the majority of pregnant teens have used a mind altering substance in the past year, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The researchers found that 60 percent of pregnant teenagers reported using one or more substances – nearly double the rate of non-pregnant teens.

What’s worse, many pregnant teens are unaware of the repercussions associated with using during the pregnancy, resulting in continued use after learning that they are with child. The research showed that more than one-third of all pregnant teens ages 12 to 14 reported substance use in the previous month, according to the article.

The findings are the result of reviewing data from 97,850 teen girls between ages 12 and 17, with 810 reporting they were pregnant. The most commonly used substances by pregnant teens were alcohol (16 percent), marijuana (14 percent), and other illicit drugs (5 percent).

“To our knowledge, this is the largest study to date on the relationship between substance use and teen pregnancy,” said study lead author Christopher Salas-Wright, Assistant Professor at UT Austin’s School of Social Work. “Mothers’ substance use during pregnancy can have important consequences for the health and development of newborn babies. Despite efforts to prevent substance use among pregnant teens, our findings suggest that we still have a lot of work to do.”

However, there were factors that reduced the likelihood of substance abuse among pregnant teens, the article reports.

“We found that the odds of substance use were roughly 50 percent lower among pregnant teens reporting consistent parental support and limit-setting, as well as those who expressed strong positive feelings about going to school,” said study co-author Michael G. Vaughn, of Saint Louis University’s School of Social Work. “This suggests that it makes sense to engage both parents and teachers in efforts to address substance use among pregnant teens.”

The findings are published in Addictive Behaviors.