Remember that neighborhood bully everyone hated in high school? Chances are he was taking drugs, drinking and smoking tobacco.
A new Ohio State University study has found middle- and high-school students who bully their classmates are more likely than others to use substances such as cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana. Surprisingly, perhaps, researchers found many victims of bullies are also more likely to use substances than teens who aren’t regularly victimized.
“Our findings suggest that one deviant behavior may be related to another,” said lead researcher Kisha Radliff. “For example, youth who bully others might be more likely to also try substance use. The reverse could also be true in that youth who use substances might be more likely to bully others.”
The study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, was based on a survey of 74,247 students enrolled in all public, private and Catholic middle and high schools in Franklin County, Ohio.
Eight of the 152 questions on the survey asked students about their experiences as perpetrators or victims of bullying. In addition, the questionnaire asked how often they used cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana.
Researchers found bullying was more common among middle-school students than those in high school, while substance use was more prevalent among high-school students.
About 30 percent of middle-school students were bullies, victims or bully-victims, compared to 23 percent of those in high school.
Among middle-school students, only 1.6 percent of those not involved in bullying reported marijuana use. But 11.4 percent of bullies and 6.1 percent of bully-victims used the drug. About 2.4 percent of victims were marijuana users.
Among high school students, 13.3 percent of those not involved in bullying were marijuana users – compared to 31.7 percent of bullies, 29.2 percent of bully-victims, and 16.6 percent of victims.
Similar results were found for alcohol and cigarette use.