Teenage boys who drink, smoke and use drugs are influenced more by family and friends while genes are more likely to increase the risk of substance abuse in teenage girls, says a Virginia Commonwealth University study.
"Our findings show that risk factors for substance abuse are different in boys and girls," researcher Judy L. Silberg, an assistant professor of human genetics, says in a news release.
"In girls, there was a significant genetic influence on all substance abuse in adolescence. But, with boys, environmental factors, including a dysfunctional family and peers who use drugs and alcohol, had a pervasive influence," Silberg says.
Their statistical analysis revealed that no single risk factor was to blame for substance abuse in male or female teens. In both girls and boys, genetics and environment were factors, but their degree of influence varied for boys and girls. The study findings could affect the way that teens are treated for substance abuse.
"Because girls' use of substances is controlled by the same genes that are linked to behavioral problems, treatment efforts that target the antisocial behavior itself may be effective. Boys' substance use may be reduced by directly altering those family and peer characteristics that are most influential," Silberg says.