Young athletes use fewer drugs, but more alcohol

Mon May 30, 2011 11:11pm EDT
 
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Teens who exercise and play team sports are less likely to be smokers or use marijuana and other drugs than their peers, but they do drink more alcohol, a study said.

While the findings, published in "Addiction," don't prove cause and effect, they could have important implications for preventing drug and alcohol abuse in young adults, the study's authors said.

"If we can encourage an enjoyment in general exercise, we may be able to see a lowering of participation in drug use," said Yvonne Terry-McElrath, at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and one of the authors.

"It's at least a starting point."

She warned, though, that the links found in the study "were not staggeringly huge" and added that encouraging exercise was certainly "not a cure for anything."

Terry-McElrath and her colleagues used data from a study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that followed high school seniors through young adulthood with regular surveys that asked about recent use of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, as well as participation in athletics and exercise.

The report included data on close to 12,000 students, about half of whom filled out follow-up surveys until they were 25 or 26 years old.

At the first survey, students had drunk alcohol between one and five times, on average, in the previous month, and smoked marijuana between zero and two times. The average senior smoked cigarettes not at all or less than one per day. About 9 percent of students had used other illicit drugs in the previous month.

Students who participated in team sports or general exercise were less likely to use cigarettes, marijuana and other illicit drugs as final year students. And those who increased their physical activity over the next few years also reported smoking and using drugs less often as time went on.   Continued...

 
<p>A woman drinks at a bar in a nightclub in Shanghai February 25, 2010. REUTERS/Aly Song</p>