Hair analysis may be the key to better understanding and monitoring of substance use (including alcohol and tobacco) among adolescents. Studies show that hair analysis far exceeds the accuracy of the survey. “It’s important to properly assess and better understand substance use among adolescents,” says lead author Natasha Wade, professor of psychology at the University of California: Prevalence of cannabis use is estimated at 5% among youth aged 13 to 14 last year, up 26% , consumption of alcohol and nicotine, among other substances.
Combine 2 methods, interview and hair analysis
A study of 1,390 children aged 9 to 13 found a 9 percent increase in substance use when researchers took hair analysis results into account in addition to survey results. Participants were asked about their use of various substances over the past year, and hair samples were taken and analyzed.
- In the survey, 10% of young participants answered in the affirmative;
- hair tests also showed that 10% of teenagers tested positive for at least 1 substance overall, including 6.1% for cannabinoids, 1.9% for alcohol, 1.9% for amphetamines, and 1.7% for cocaine ;
- however, participants who reported use differed from those who tested positive: 136 reported using the substance, 145 had a hair test positive for at least 1 substance, and matches were found in only 23 participants;
- Hair analysis identifies 9% more cases of substance use overall than self-reporting, almost twice as many.
- the number of users finally identified at the level of 19% of the sample.
Numbers that addiction specialists consider very alarming because adolescence is a critical period of brain development, and cannabis use during adolescence is already associated with a range of negative consequences in life, including poor academic performance, mental health problems and behavioral changes. brain function and development.
“This is a longstanding bias in research on substance use, especially in children and adolescents. Self-reporting has its benefits, for example, young people may be more likely to disclose low levels of new substance use, so instead of hiding self-reporting entirely, a more accurate picture of adolescent substance use can be obtained by combining the 2 methods.”