Among teenagers, smoking is strongly linked to other types of substance abuse. Smokers' greater drug use may reflect both their willingness to try risky things and the fact that teenage smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to spend time with people who have access to illegal drugs.
In comparison to nonsmokers of the same age, teenagers who smoke are:
3 times more likely to drink alcohol
8 times more likely to use marijuana
22 times more likely to use cocaine
Why does this happen? In part, it's because teenagers who are willing to take one kind of risk are often willing to take others. Teenagers who smoke are more likely than nonsmokers to do many kinds of risky things, such as fighting and having unprotected sex, as well as drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs.
Teenagers who smoke may also be more likely to use other drugs because they're using both substances for the same reason. They may be trying to find ways to deal with stress, for example, or they may be rebelling against adult authority. Of course, neither smoking nor using drugs is a good way to deal with the problems of growing up. But many young people don't realize this.
Teenage smokers may also be more likely to abuse other substances because they have more opportunities to try these substances than nonsmokers do. Smokers usually spend a lot of time with friends who smoke, and some of those friends may use alcohol or illegal drugs and may offer them to a smoker who has not yet tried them.
A recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that teenagers who smoked or drank alcoholic beverages were more likely than other teens to have opportunities to use marijuana or cocaine and were more likely to try these drugs when they were given the opportunity. Thus, the smokers' greater drug use may reflect both their willingness to try risky things and the fact that teenage smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to spend time with people who have access to illegal drugs.
There is a strong link between smoking and alcohol consumption. Many smokers are "social smokers" who smoke mainly in social situations when they also drink alcoholic beverages. Those who drink heavily are more likely to smoke heavily. Thus reducing alcohol consumption may actually help in smoking cessation, in addition to removing the smoker from tempting environments. In fact, in those people who suffer from alcohol dependency problems, a relapse to drinking can cause a relapse to smoking. Conversely, continued smoking can cause a relapse to drinking. Choosing smoking cessation methods and programs that address both of these issues is crucial to a successful quit attempt.