PUBLISHED: 11:01 EDT, 31 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:50 EDT, 31 May 2017
High-school students living in affluent communities are up to three times more likely to have a drug or alcohol addiction in their mid-20s, new research reveals.
Up to 40 percent of men who attended schools in privileged areas are battling addiction by the age of 26, the study found. Some 24 percent of women are affected.
Researchers believe the high-pressure environments of schools with impressive average grades and lots of extracurricular activities in privileged areas are to blame.
Coming from a well-off family may also increase a student’s disposable income and therefore their access to fake IDs, the researchers add.
They warn this trend is unlikely to wane while universities continue to offer limited places and demand extensive applications.
How the study was carried out
Researchers from Columbia University analysed students from affluent communities in the north-east of the US.
The students were assessed while still at school and were then analysed again annually for four years or from the ages of 23 to 27.
Results, published in the journal Development and Psychopathology, revealed up to 40 percent of men and 24 percent of women in the study had a drug or alcohol addiction by the age of 26.
This is up to three times higher than the national average, the research adds.
The researchers believe these findings may be due to students been under high amounts of pressure as they attended schools with impressive average grades and a lot of extracurricular activities.
Pressure may have also come from the students’ parents.
Lead author Suniya Luthar said: ‘Without question, most of the parents wanted their kids to head off to the best universities.’
Family affluence may have also made it easier for the students to access drugs and alcohol.
Ms Luthar said: ‘Many kids in these communities have plenty of disposable income with which they can get high-quality fake ID’s, as well as alcohol and both prescription and recreational drugs.’
The researchers also blame peer pressure and parental ignorance towards substance abuse.
What the research means for the future
Ms Luthar said: ‘Messing with drugs and alcohol really should not be trivialized as just something all kids do.
‘For high-achieving and ambitious youngsters, it could actually be persuasive to share scientific data showing that in their own communities the statistical odds of developing serious problems of addiction are two to three times higher than norms.
‘And that it truly just takes one event of being arrested with cocaine, or hurting someone in a drunken car accident, to derail the high profile positions of leadership and influence toward which they are working so hard for the future.’
The researchers added, however, pressures placed upon students are unlikely to wane any time soon.
Ms. Luthar said: ‘As long as university admissions processes continue to be as they are – increasingly smaller number of admits per applications and requiring impossible resumes – these young people will continue to be frenetic in pursuing those coveted spots – and many will continue to self-medicate as a result.’