Colorado Study Finds Teens Who Tan Indoors More Likely To Abuse Drugs

By Kathy Walsh

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have found a direct link between indoor tanning and substance abuse among Colorado high school students.

The study was published Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology. The analysis shows teenagers who engage in indoor tanning may more easily move on to other risky health-related behaviors like illicit drug use.

“Heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol; all of them are used at higher rates in high school students who are indoor tanning,” said study author Dr. Robert Dellavalle, an Associate Professor of Dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Dellavalle looked at the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey of health data from Colorado public schools and found the correlation between indoor tanning and substance abuse.

“We can’t say that one causes the other,” Dellavalle told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

But Dellavalle points out both require disposable income, both may develop from similar peer pressure and both can be addictive.

“UV light releases endorphins and can stimulate, makes you feel good and some people get addicted to that feeling. That type of addiction might also be at play with people who are more prone to use recreational drugs,” said Dellavalle.

He added the strong association surprised researchers and more study is needed.

“Other risky behaviors — risky sex — can be associated as well with these,” Dellavalle said.

Meanwhile, he cautions parents if their teen is indoor tanning, they should also check for drug abuse.

The study also determined high school females were more than twice as likely to tan indoors as males. The Food and Drug Administration is proposing anyone under the age of 18 be barred from using indoor tanning equipment. Similar proposals in Colorado have failed in the Legislature.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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