High School Athletes Use Fewer Drugs, But Drink More
A new study finds that people who played team sports in high school are less likely to smoke or use drugs as they grow older. However, they are more likely to drink alcohol.
Reuters Health reports that the study of out the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor does not prove cause and effect, but it could be helpful in preventing alcoholism and drug addiction in young people.
The researchers used data from a study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that followed high school seniors through their mid-20s. They were asked about the drug and alcohol use, as well as their sports participation.
About 38% of teens who didn't play team sports reported smoking cigarettes as young adults, and 23% smoked marijuana. That compared to 25% to 29% of athletes who said they smoked cigarettes, and 15% to 17% who smoked marijuana.
As far as alcohol, 45% of non-athletes were drinkers, as opposed to 57% of athletes.
Yvonne Terry-McElrath, one of the study's authors, was quick to point out that the links found in the study "were not staggeringly large," and that encouraging exercise is "certainly not a cure for anything."
She said there are several theories as to why athletes tend to drink more than others. One theory is that drinking may be an important social activity on some teams, and there may be peer pressure to drink in post-game environments.
In any case, Terry-McElrath said it can't hurt to encourage sports and exercise.
"If we can encourage an enjoyment in general exercise, we may be able to see a lowering of participation in drug use," she said. "It's at least a starting point."
The study was published in the journal Addiction.