Michael W. Miller Warns of Link Between Teenage Depression, Drug Use

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A new study reveals that high school-aged kids who exhibit signs of depression are more likely to engage in underage alcohol consumption or cigarette smoking. The study has won the praise of scientist Michael W. Miller, whose own pioneering work in this field confirms these new study results.

It is common knowledge that both depression and alcohol use are significant problems amongst teenagers, particularly those in junior and senior high school. According to a new study, however, these two issues might actually be connected. New research indicates that high school-aged students who exhibit symptoms of depression are more likely than their peers to turn to drinking and smoking. The study has won the praise of Michael W. Miller, a neuroscientist whose own research has yielded similar findings.

In fact, the study is not limited to alcohol and cigarettes. It also reveals that teens showing signs of depression are more likely to use marijuana and hard drugs throughout their high school years and beyond. The conclusion of the study is that the signs of depression first reveal themselves during the teenage years—and teenagers turn to drug use and drinking as a form of self-medication.

Michael W. Miller agrees. The neuroscientist praises the new study, and says its findings are convincing. “This insightful study provides intriguing data supporting the concept that substances are used by young teenagers to self-medicate for depression,” notes Michael W. Miller. He goes on to point out that the data is consistent with one of his own, previous studies. “This is consistent with the so-called ‘alcoholism generator hypothesis’ that implies early substance abuse by teenagers is primed by fetal exposures.”

Michael W. Miller makes these comments with reference to his own 2006 study, which indicates that fetal development can make an individual more or less prone to substance abuse as a teenager.

The main thrust of this new study, however, pertains to the relationship between depression symptoms and substance abuse—and particularly of the role of drugs and alcohol as means of self-medication. The study confirms that “those individuals who had more depressive symptoms in ninth grade reported faster increases than their peers in smoking, marijuana, and hard drug use… across the high school years.” As the study notes, all of these substances are known to have mood-enhancing effects. Their use for self-medication, then, is easy to fathom.


Michael W. Miller, Ph.D. is a distinguished neuroscientist who has taught neuroscience and biology at many prestigious universities, including Tulane University, the University of Iowa, and the State University of New York. Dr. Miller has conducted seminal research into the effects of alcohol on brain development for more than 30 years.

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Michael McGarety
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