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Duke Opening New Center To Study Teen Substance Abuse

A Duke University study found a link between poverty and smoking in adolescents.
Valentin Ottone via Flickr, Creative Commons

Duke University is opening a new center dedicated to research on how to curb teen substance abuse. The new Center for the Study of Adolescent Risk and Resilience or "C-StARR" is benefiting from a $6.7 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Kenneth Dodge, director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke, says scientists will use brain-imaging to analyze how teens make decisions. Dodge says that will provide important clues about what causes adolescents to abuse alcohol or drugs.

"Specifically, we're going to be doing research on adolescent decision-making and self-regulation that will bring together neuroscientists and neighborhood community psychologists to try to understand decision-making during the adolescent period,” Dodge says.

Dodge says studies show nearly half of all teens in the U.S. will have made the decision to use an illicit drug by the time they're in 12th grade and that looking directly at young people's thought processes could answer questions on how peer pressure affects them.

“Adolescents make decisions about with whom they interact, whether to go to that party or not, whether to have alcohol in the car, etcetera," he says. "And they're just at the cusp of becoming competent decision makers.”

Dodge says alcohol-related incidents kill some 5,000 young people each year. 200,000 end up in emergency rooms.

Fed up with the frigid winters of her native state, Catherine was lured to North Carolina in 2006. She grew up in Wisconsin where she spent much of her time making music and telling stories. Prior to joining WUNC, Catherine hosted All Things Considered and classical music at Wisconsin Public Radio. She got her start hosting late-nights and producing current events talk shows for the station's Ideas Network. She later became a fill-in talk show host and recorded books for WPR's popular daily program, Chapter A Day.
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