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Youth can’t do without phones, alcohol, drugs

Too much money and too little to spend it on?

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Three studies published today show that young people seem to be drinking too much, smoking tobacco and using mobile phones a great deal. Obviously they can only afford to do this thanks to the fact that all their music is stolen these days.

Psychologist Dr. David Sheffield got 100 students to fill in forms normally used to assess gambling addiction, and found that 16 of them (one in six, as the headlines would have it) showed addictive behaviour. Apparently 90 per cent of the students said they took their mobile phone with them everywhere, and a third would phone a friend when they felt down: both clear signs of addiction.

By these criteria it would seem we’re all addicts, but Dr. Sheffield also established that one in seven of the students (~15) became bad tempered if denied access to their phone, and would lie about how much they used it.

Taking phones away from another group of students lowered their blood pressure within days, and reduced irritation in their lives, but at the cost of social exclusion as they were unable to keep up with social arrangements.

Dr David Sheffield concludes that none of this proves users are addicted to their phones; it may just be so central to modern life that doing without it is a strain, but he does recommend occasional breaks from the ever-present connectivity just to make sure addiction doesn’t develop.

Meanwhile the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is calling for lower drink-driving limits, bans on alcohol advertising on TV and an increase in the legal age for smoking from 16 to 18, all to curb the use of drink and drugs amongst youth.

The government has spent 70 million quid on drugs education in the last 10 years, but the ACMD reports that the impact of school-based schemes has been "slight or non-existent" and could even be counter-productive. Consumption of cannabis seems to have dropped off in recent years, but alcohol use has just about doubled since 1996, particularly amongst young women.

Most of the recommendations made by the ACMD will probably be considered and rejected; though the call to increase duty on alcohol would have the happy side-effect of raising money for the treasury, so might be more welcome: for the good of the children.

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