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Teens who prefer indoor tanning are more likely to abuse substances: Study

Teens who prefer indoor tanning are more likely to abuse substances: Study

02-26 | CDAH Team

If tanning and drug addiction were to be mentioned together, one would not decipher any association between the two. But according to a new study published online in the JAMA Dermatology, teens who have a fancy for indoor tanning are more likely to smoke, drink, and take to illegal drugs and steroids.

As per the study at University of Colorado, two-thirds of the respondents who used tanning salons reported taking marijuana in their lives, compared to 35 percent of non-users. As many as 21 percent of those who took to indoor tanning said they had used steroids, against less than 2 percent of the other group. The figure for those who smoked cigarettes daily over the last month was 10 percent, compared to less than 2 percent for those who didn’t go to tanning salons.

As part of the study, the researchers analyzed the answers of over 12,000 students of a Colorado high school. A striking revelation that came up from the study was that females were keener to use indoor tanning. Some 7 percent of the participants said they had tanned indoors at least once in the past year. According to the report on, females were about as twice as likely as males to say they used tanning salons.

It was found that females and males had different preferences for the drugs. Study co-author Dr. Robert Dellavalle, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado, said females who tanned indoors were more inclined to use Ecstasy and abuse prescription drugs, while males had a weakness for steroids and heroin. According to a report on, Colorado teens believe prescription drugs are safer to use than street drugs as they are prescribed by a physician. They believed that prescription drugs were “easier to get than beer.”

But why do youngsters take so much of risks with their life in spite of being aware of the fact that indoor tanning causes skin cancer? “It’s a short step for a teen involved with one risky health behavior to try another,” said Gery Guy Jr., a health economist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He added that teens who indulge in risky activities may be victims of low esteem or depression or they may be worried about their looks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of drug overdose deaths touched 47,055 in 2014, or about 125 Americans daily. Looking at the figures, the new study is a warning signal for parents who need to understand that indoor tanning may increase the teens’ chance of getting pulled by the epidemic of drug addiction.

Other revelations

This is not the first study to link tanning and addictions. According to a report in, a previous research by Guy Jr. of the CDC linked tanning to heavy drinking, use of illegal drugs and steroids and unhealthy weight-loss choices. The study published in 2014 in the JAMA Dermatology said that female who loved to go to tanning salons preferred illegal drugs, sexual intercourse with four or more partners. Among teenage boys, it was not limited to steroid use and daily cigarette smoking, even cases of attempted suicide were noticed in them.

As per the report, Kathleen Dougherty, M.D., president of the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society said, “Only a small fraction of teenagers who decide to use indoor tanning facilities may also partake in other potentially addictive behaviors such as misuse of controlled substances, alcohol use, and other unhealthy behaviors. However, this study opens the door for the initiation of a dialogue between parents, children, and healthcare professionals to further discuss potential risky behaviors before they occur.”

Addiction doesn’t mean the end of life. It is a disease and needs to be treated like any physical or mental disorder. If you or your loved one is battling with an addiction, seek help from the Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline. Call us anytime at 866-218-7546 to learn about the best possible treatments.

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