An important part of one’s developing years and a major contributing factor toward a healthy adult life, high-intensity exercise is known to provide superior health benefits – both physical and psychological – to teenagers. However, a recent study by the Royal Australian and New Zealand School of Psychiatrists seems to say otherwise. According to the study, physically active teens were more likely to experience substance abuse issues, including addiction to marijuana and cocaine, by the time they turned 21.
For their research, the group looked at the physical activity of more than 3,000 14-year-olds. As per the researchers, teens who took part in high-level of sports and physical activities, such as those who exercised more than four times per week, were more likely to indulge in increased alcohol use by the time they turned adults. Researchers concluded that serotonin released during a workout in combination with the drinking culture common in sports could be behind the addictive behavior.
According to the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Shuichi Suetani, teens who were regular with high-intensity workouts were more prone to alcohol-related issues. As compared to adolescent boys, girls of their age who engaged in intense physical activity were much more likely to have potential alcohol addiction symptoms when they grew up. While the study points toward a potential link between high-intensity workouts during teenage and substance abuse-related issues in later years, high levels of exercise were also found to be responsible for a reduction in anxiety and depression levels among teens.
Other factors behind substance abuse among teenagers
Although the study held serotonin, combined with drinking culture in sports, responsible for the possible substance use disorders in later years, as per Dr. Matthew Dunn, senior lecturer in Deakin University, the discovery is not new as children who indulged in regular sporting activities were known to be influenced by external pressures and develop addiction to substances such as drugs and/or alcohol.
According to Dr. Dunn, there are a “lot of socio-cultural things” that could influence alcohol and/or drug abuse among young people. He further emphasized on the existing club culture in Australia as a temptation for young athletes to try addictive substances, especially if those substances were being used by other athletes around them.
Citing substance abuse among young people as a cause of concern, Dr. Mark Hutchinson from the Medical School at the University of Adelaide refers to the “elite sporting environment” as a potential cause behind the increasing substance abuse among young boys and girls. He also referred to the possibility that as children get to play at senior grade levels, they are more prone to early exposure to addictive substances that could further contribute to the rising substance abuse trend among young athletes.
According to Dr. Hutchinson, teenage plays a crucial role in developing one’s addiction to drugs and/or alcohol as he/she is still developing mentally and physically. He said that one’s physical and emotional growth, combined with lack of decision-making capacity, often makes a teenager more vulnerable to substance addiction.
Dr. Hutchinson further pointed out that while the study has identified the possible role that serotonin had to play in increasing the risk of substance abuse, there is not enough data to confirm it. “I don’t think there is really any evidence around to suggest that this kind of approach would lead to fundamental brain adaptability,” he said.
Freedom from drugs and alcohol
A leading addiction treatment and behavioral health service provider, Sovereign Health’s adolescent facility based in Rancho San Diego specializes in treating substance abuse and co-occurring disorders among boys and girls aged 12 to 17. The teen alcohol addiction treatment at our specialized centers may combine clinical treatment options along with experiential therapies to provide a comprehensive treatment that lasts.
To find out more about our treatment programs or to locate our rehabs offering alcohol addiction treatment for teens, call our 24/7 helpline or chat live with a member of our admissions team.