Background: The use of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs is considered to be primarily a male problem. Many studies of drug use in the general population have reinforced this assumption. Other recent findings, however, call the extent of gender differences into question.
Methods: Self report data were collected from 911 high risk adolescents who ranged from 12 to 18 years.
Results: Last 30 day use was used to compare the youth. Significant findings show girls use cigarettes more than boys; boys use all types of alcohol more than girls; and, boys use marijuana and hashish more than girls. No differences were reported in terms of the patterns of ecstasy, inhalants, prescription drugs, LSD, amphetamines, cocaine, crack cocaine, opium and heroin. Boys more than girls were inclined to binge drink. Boys and girls reported similar patterns of being in a car with a driver who had been drinking and driving a car after drinking. Boys more than girls take loans in order to obtain drugs; girls more than boys were able to acquire drugs without having to use their own money; and boys more than girls gambled to acquire drugs.
Discussion: With the exception of cigarettes, boys use drugs and engage in problem behavior more than girls. Underage drinking and driving is a serious behavior problem reported by male and female youth. This factor and binge drinking should be targeted as priority prevention issues. Gender differences in prevalence of drug use among high risk adolescents should be monitored to verify what may be a growing problem among female adolescents in the country and elsewhere (Litt, I., (2003). Drugs and adolescent girls. (editorial). Journal of Adolescent Health, 32, 1-2).