Substance use and mental health disorders continue to be a growing concern for the youth of today. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) under Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) includes the largest collection of longitudinal hospital care data in the United States. According to a recent report published by them, 21.4% of teenagers have suffered or are currently suffering from a mental disorder, bringing in the highest number of hospital stays in 2012.

Mental Disorders In Teenagers

As teenagers are at a more vulnerable stage of their lives, psychologically as well as physiologically, various factors tend to impact them more to make such a hasty decision. “Because critical brain circuits are still developing during the teen years, this age group is particularly susceptible to drug abuse and addiction,” says Director of NIDA, Dr. Nora D. Volkow in a news release. NIDA, along with other organizations, is currently working in laying the foundation for the effects that regular as well as occasional use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs have on the brains and lives of young Americans. At another instance she was reported saying ‘depression, anxiety, ADHD, and conduct disorder are often present in adolescents prior to their abusing drugs, perhaps as a form of self-treatment, but drug abuse itself may also trigger or worsen co-morbid mental conditions in some adolescents’.

Data taken from the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality in 2012 reveals that mood, anxiety, attention and conduct disorders were most commonly reported with mood disorder having the highest number of stays (199,200), particularly in females, with anxiety coming as the second most common mental disorder with 85,000 stays. Substance use not being far off is showing a steady increase with an approximated 34%.

Results reveal that alcohol use disorders were more than 10 times higher among 19 year olds with 182 stays per 100,000 population in comparison with 13 year olds with 14 stays per 100,00 population. Moreover, those that had started at a younger age were more likely to abuse it later.

In the case of substance use, cannabis was most frequently used with up to 94 million Americans having tried it at least once in their lives. It is extremely popular among teenagers and those in their early 20s with 6.7% of users ranging from the age group 12-17 in 2007 alone, despite the evidence available of how it can possibly cause permanent cognitive impairment at that age. The other widely used drugs are alcohol and opium. The use of these substances was 40 times higher in 19 year olds as compared to those that were younger with men showing a higher predominance than females. This data has been analyzed from inpatient teenagers in the hospitals involved with the department of health and human services, department of state health services, health data organization and state nursing and home association.

Major diagnostic categories that resulted in teenagers getting hospitalized included pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium, mental disorders, digestive system, musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, nervous system, respiratory system, endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic disorders, injuries, poisoning and toxic effects of drugs, skin, subcutaneous tissue, breast diseases, kidney and urinary tract disorders. These were the diseases under which most of the teenagers got hospitalized and provided the data for this research.

At the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, Obama addressed the issue of opioid addiction and deaths being caused by it and was reported saying that more people are being killed from opioid overdoses than from traffic accidents. He proposed to invest $1.1 billion for treatment related to prescription of opioids and misuse of heroin.

The rate at which this problem is expanding should reflect in the strategies and policies being implemented to help these young teenagers and provide treatment for them. Mental health and substance abuse problems arising at an earlier age are bound to play a role in the later part of life, too. In fact, the earlier the onset of a mental disorder, the more the adverse effects are uncovered later. Various organizations are already doing tremendous work. AHRQ, which provided data for the above statistics aggregated under the HCUP Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID), is one such agency providing comprehensive information on hospital use and its outcomes, and develops measures and data used by providers and policymakers. It has helped the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission develop estimates of eligibility for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.