Kid being bullied? Watch out for drug and alcohol use later, study finds

A new study out of Boston Children’s Hospital, which will be part of the June issue of Pediatrics, looked at more than 4,000 students in Houston, Birmingham, Alabama, and Los Angeles, and had them answer questions about bullying, their mental health and tobacco, drug and alcohol use. It studied the same kids from 2004 to 2011.

Researchers were looking at if there was a correlation between kids who were bullied as fifth-graders, depression as seventh-graders and drug and alcohol use as 10th-graders. It did find a link.


From the “Peer Victimization, Depressive Symptoms, and Substance Use: A Longitudinal Analysis:” “Youth who experienced more frequent peer victimization in the fifth grade were more likely to use substances in the tenth grade, showing that experiences of peer victimization in early adolescence may have a lasting impact by affecting substance use behaviors during mid- to late adolescence.”

Notice it was about being frequently bullied, not the one-time incident. There was also some indication that the same was true for the bully and the bullied.

The study authors recommend that pediatricians screen children at their annual well-checks for:

  1. bullying
  2. depressive symptoms
  3. substance abuse

As well, those kids who do report bullying to their doctors should be counseled on how to get support at school and from their parents.


It’s all about facing the bullying early so it doesn’t become depression in middle school and drug addiction in high school, if not before.

Do your kids know what to do when there is a situation of bullying?

My daughter’s school just started an online form that kids can fill out to say what happened, when it happened and who was involved. Our kids might be more likely to report an incident when they can do it digitally rather than having to go to the office and get someone to actually take time out of their day to listen to them. It’s a step in the right direction.



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