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Understanding Teen Pregnancy and Substance Abuse
Posted on March 29, 2010
When teen pregnancy rates increased for the first time in a decade between 2005 and 2006, there were more changes under the headlines. Not only had teen pregnancies increased that year, but shifts in the demographics of teenage females who also struggle with substance abuse changed significantly in the years leading up to the increase.
A report looking at pregnant teen admissions to substance abuse treatment in both 1992 and 2007 shows how much substance abuse during pregnancy has changed. The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) was used to examine trends and how they have shifted in fifteen years, especially noting a rise in Hispanic admissions.
All of the admissions examined were between 13 and 19 years of age at the time the data was collected. In both 1992 and 2007, approximately 4 percent of all admissions at this age were pregnant at the time of admission.
Between 1992 and 2007, there was a significant increase in admissions to substance abuse treatment centers of Hispanic teenagers who were pregnant, from 15,7 percent to 21.4 percent. However, non-Hispanic Black admissions decreased from 24.0 percent to 14.7 percent.
The primary substance being used by the pregnant teenage mothers also changed over the course of fifteen years. Alcohol was most frequently the substance primarily abused by pregnant teens admitted for treatment in 1992, but in 2007 the primary substance reported to be abused was marijuana.
Marijuana abuse more than doubled, with 45.9 percent of admissions reporting that marijuana was their primary substance, compared with 19.3 percent in 1992. There was also an increase in methamphetamine use, from 4.3 percent to 18.8 percent.
One sobering factor remained the same: In 1992 and 2007, over 15 percent of pregnant teen admissions reported having had at least two prior treatment admissions.
The majority of teen pregnant admissions reported at least two substances that were being abused at the time of admission. In 1992, 60.6 percent of admissions were abusing more than one substance, while in 2007 there was a small increase to 62.5 percent.
The majority of pregnant teen admissions reported multiple substances of abuse. In 1992, 60.6 percent of pregnant teen admissions reported two or more substances of abuse at admission; in 2007, the proportion increased slightly to 62.5 percent.
The principal source of referrals also saw a change over the course of time. The number of referrals from the criminal justice system doubled from 21.6 percent to 43.3 percent. The self-referrals admitted for treatment while pregnant decreased from 28.5 percent in 1992 to 17.2 percent in 2007.
Teenage females admitted for substance abuse treatment while pregnant require a close look at demographics and primary substance of abuse so that the teens most at risk for substance abuse while pregnant may be targeted for education and prevention. The risks posed to the infant warrant a careful study of ways to prevent the intersection of teen pregnancy and substance abuse.