A new report, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, has been released. While tobacco is mentioned throughout the report, other Surgeon General reports cover the topic extensively. Still, tobacco does play a part with addiction and substance abuse of other drugs.
According to the report “many individuals with a substance use disorder also have a mental disorder as well, and some have multiple substance use disorders.” For example, tobacco smoking is much higher “among patients with schizophrenia,” while smoking and alcohol use seem to combine for those with PTSD. Researchers are not clear why “substance use disorders and mental disorders often occur together” but give three possible explanations.
One is that using certain substances can temporarily reduce the mental disorder symptom, sort of a negative reinforcement. Another explanation is that certain substances could trigger a mental disorder that otherwise may not have occurred. The final reason is that both the substance use and mental disorder are caused by overlapping factors, such as genes, traumatic or stressful life experiences or neurobiological deficts.
Could some of these substance uses trigger pre-existing neurobiological factors in adolescents whose brains are still undergoing significant development? While it is true not all adolescents who experiment develop a substance use disorder, researchers will need more longitudinal studies to determine “how adolescent substance use affects brain structure and function.” In the meantime, school-based and family-based programs of education and intervention can help delay “early use of alcohol, tobacco and other substances,” and can continue to delay use for years after the programs.
The Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators online course is an educational program designed to teach students about the health dangers of tobacco. The course allows teachers to take our 30- or 60-point course and teach tobacco prevention to their students in exchange for points to renew their FLDOE certificate. Preventing tobacco use among our Florida students now may also prevent or decrease other substance use in the future.