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Mental health professionals have long been aware of an increased prevalence of depression amongst teenage girls as compared to teenage boys, but researchers have now determined that this increase in sex dependent depression seem to be largely a function of the influence of substance abuse and dependence.

Increases in depression incidences actually caused by substance abuse

Researchers at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation have determined that teen girls who drink or abuse drugs are two and a half times more likely to exhibit the signs of depression than non abusing girls, and when this statistical deviation of abusing girls is removed, the incidence rates of depression amongst teen boys and girls are largely the same.

This is certainly not good news in the face of White House drug studies that report that teenaged girls have now surpassed their male peers in drug abuse participation.

Parents need to get teenaged girls intervention quickly to offset the destruction of drug and alcohol abuse during these developmental years, but this intervention is problematic because parents too often fail to recognize that the stereotypical signs of drug abuse are largely absent in abusing girls. Drug abuse amongst girls is often characterized by moodiness, depression, and a retreat into social isolation; which can all be easily misinterpreted by parents as a part of the normal developmental expressions of adolescence.

A significant percentage of teen girl substance abuse is in fact only detected after parents eventually seek professional help for the symptoms of depression, actually caused by the substance abuse.

What can parents do?

It can be tough to recognize the signs of substance abuse, especially when some of the more blatant behavioral signs seem to be absent, but parents need to be vigilant and involved, and get help at the earliest possible opportunity. Since depression is so often a sign of substance abuse, any retreat into social isolation and accompanying signs of depression should be investigated as potential signs of abuse, and the symptoms of the depression dealt with professionally whether abuse is present or not.

Teen girls negotiate a very challenging few years during adolescence, and too many resort to substance abuse to cope with the pressures and challenges of this sometimes traumatic period. Staying as involved as possible and getting outside professional help when warranted are the two best things parents can do to keep their children mentally healthy and safe from substance abuse and dependence.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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