Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Are Indoor Tanning and Teen Substance Abuse Linked?

Like the energy drinks described in a recent post, it appears that there may be a connection between teen use of indoor tanning and substance abuse, according to the latest research. A study recently published in the journal of JAMA Dermatology found that teens who often frequented indoor tanning establishments were more likely to indulge in other risky behaviors as well—including drinking heavily, smoking cigarettes, and using illegal substances.

Interestingly, the survey of high school aged teenagers found that teens who used indoor tanning services were more likely to be concerned about their appearance, which in turn led to healthy choices like taking part in sports and exercise and eating healthfully. However, it was also linked to an increase in reported use of illicit substances, including drugs like steroids among boys or stimulant drugs to lose weight, according to HealthDay.

The use of indoor tanning services is not uncommon among teens. The survey found that about 13 percent of students in 2011 said they tanned indoors, and an estimated 50 percent of these students reported using these services at least 10 times that year.

Boys included in this number were more likely than their peers to use steroids, smoke cigarettes, and/or have suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Both boys and girls in this group were more likely than peers to binge drink or to utilize substances to maintain an unhealthily low weight.

Substance Abuse, Self-Esteem, and Weight Control

Girls aren’t the only ones who struggle with their appearance. Boys, too, may be unhappy with their weight or how they look compared to peers—and be willing to try to make changes in an unhealthy way if it means quick results. Use of indoor tanning beds has been connected to an increased risk of skin cancer, and teens who are willing to take that risk may be willing to take other risks with their health and safety as well if it means looking good.

Unfortunately, dangerous acts do little to boost self-esteem, and when those acts include substance abuse, they can worsen the underlying issues and cause a whole new set of problems while they slowly destroy the physical and mental health of the teenager.

Addressing the Situation

How can you best help your son if you find that he is taking dangerous risks with his health? If drug and alcohol abuse is one of the issues that are problematic for your child, seeking professional assistance is the most effective and safest way to address the issue because it offers medical and psychotherapeutic help as needed. Learn more about the personalized treatment program that can help your son heal when you contact us at Muir Wood today.