Teens smoke to relieve stress report more signs of depression

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Teenagers who are lighting up a cigarette in order to feel better are not only risking their physical health but are harming their mental health too. Canadian researchers are claiming that many teenagers who smoke in order to “self medicate” have elevated symptoms of depression.

The research, which is part of a long term study into nicotine dependence in teens (NDIT), was led by Michael Chaiton from the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit of the University of Toronto along with his co-author Jennifer O’Loughlin of the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre.

“This observational study is one of the few to examine the perceived emotional benefits of smoking among adolescents. Although cigarettes may appear to have self-medicating effects or to improve mood, in the long term we found teens who started to smoke reported higher depressive symptoms” said lead author Chaiton.
The study involved 662 teenagers from grades 7 to 11 who came from a mixture of French and English, rural and urban secondary schools and from different socio-economic backgrounds.

The teens completed up to 20 questionnaires which asked questions relating to their energy levels, sleeping patterns and emotional states.

The youngsters were divided into three separate groups which consisted of those who had never smoked, those who did not use smoking to self medicate or improve mood, and those who did use smoking to self medicate.
The research revealed that the majority of youngsters smoke to relieve stress and loneliness, however, at the same time they often felt too tired to carry out tasks, had sleeping problems, and felt sad and depressed. Some also felt nervous and tense.

The researchers noted that those who self medicated using cigarettes are likely to have higher depression symptoms in the long term than those who had never smoked. They also found that those who claimed to get an emotional benefit out of smoking reported more signs of depression.

“Although cigarettes may appear to have self-medicating effects or to improve mood, in the long term we found teens who started to smoke reported higher depressive symptoms” said Chaiton.

“Smokers who used cigarettes as mood enhancers had higher risks of elevated depressive symptoms than teens who had never smoked,” says O’Loughlin, Chaiton’s co-author.

Dr. Chaiton said “It’s important to emphasize that depressive symptom scores were higher among teenagers who reported emotional benefits from smoking after they began to smoke”.

These finding have been published in the journal Addictive Behaviours.

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1 Comment

  1. janis(Janice)
    Posted February 3, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    i have a son who was diagnosed with ADHD, when he was 7, within a space of 2 days of medication mysons life changed for the better. However it is not just medication alone that help the child,u have to work with the medication and there is no doubt in my mind that he still suffers with this condition.i became ill and had to go in2 hospital and because his dad refuses to except my son has ADHD he stopped his medication. i have fought to get my son son back on medication however due to his age he has been stuck in the middle to believe his father or me and the doctor. my son has a football talent however due to his self medicating with illegal drugs my son has nearly destroyed his life. he is 20 now and doesnt take drugs anymore however he is in limbo now and more hypo than ever. WHAT TO DO?

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