Statistics on Teenage Drug Use

Illegal drug use among teenagers is declining. However, the abuse of prescription drugs, especially pain relievers is increasing. Many teenagers assume that prescription drugs are safe, when in fact they are highly addictive and can cause severe side effects.

The following are some statistics regarding teenage drug and alcohol abuse:

Underage drinking costs the United States more than $58 billion every year.

40 percent of those who started drinking at age 13 or younger developed alcohol dependence later in life. Ten percent of teens who began drinking after the age of 17 developed dependence.

Ten percent of teens report that they have attended a rave, and ecstasy and other drugs were available at more than two-thirds of these raves.

Teens that drink are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than teens who never consume alcohol.

63 percent of the youth who drink alcohol say that they initially got the alcohol from their own or their friend’s homes.

Alcohol kills 6 ½ times more teenagers than all other illicit drugs combined.

Teenagers whose parents talk to them on a regular basis about the dangers of drug use are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those whose parents don’t.

More than 60 percent of teens said that drugs were sold, used, or kept at their school.

20 percent of 8th graders report that they have tried marijuana.

28 percent of teens know a classmate or friend who has used ecstasy (Teen Substance Abuse).

Approximately 15 percent of 10th and 12th graders have used amphetamines. In a study at San Francisco General Hospital, 25 percent of seizures were found to be caused by amphetamine use. An estimated 1.8 million (0.8 percent) of youth age twelve and older are current users of cocaine.

Teen arrestees often test positive for recent drug use. The National Institute of Justices Arrestee and Drug Monitoring System (ADAM) drug testing program found that 66 percent of underage male arrestees tested positive for marijuana.

There is encouraging news from the national Institute on Drug Abuse. It appears that illicit drug use by teenagers is decreasing. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, which has been tracking teen drug use since the 1970’s, “The improvement so far is very modest, but at least the troublesome trends observed through most of the 1990’s have begun to reverse direction.” The troublesome trend is in reference to six years of steady increases in drug use among teenagers between 1991 and 1996.

The current trend relates to how young people perceive drugs. Many teens are reassessing the dangers and social acceptability of drugs. This may be due in part to the increased attention being paid to the issue of drugs by parents, community groups, the media, and the government. Many rock stars and actors no longer sing the praises of drugs as much as they have in the past (The Teen Drug Scene).

One clear change is teenager’s shifting attitudes toward the legalization of marijuana and other drugs. The vast majority of high school students disapproved of legalizing the private use of LSD (63%), heroin (71%), amphetamines and barbiturates (56%), and marijuana (39%).

The percentage of high school students favoring prohibitive laws on the private use of marijuana fell dramatically from 1990 to 1997 (from 56% to 39%). Nearly 33 percent of high school seniors in the year 2000 believed that marijuana use should be legalized, and nearly one quarter (23%), believe it should be treated as a minor violation, rather than a crime. Three in ten feel that marijuana should be treated as a crime.

Given ecstasy’s growing popularity, teenager’s lack of concern about the risks surrounding it are surprisingly low. The percentage of 12th graders who perceive any health risk in using ecstasy has risen only slightly to 38 percent from 34 percent in 1997. Even so, the vast majority of teens disapprove of experimenting with ecstasy (82%) – about the same as those who disapprove of experimenting with LSD (81%) (Statistics on Drug use Among Teenagers).

Legalization of marijuana and other drugs is not the answer. Just the medical cost of drug abuse was estimated by the National Center for Health Statistics to be nearly $60 billion, and the medical bill for alcohol was nearly $100 billion.

Parents and families face one of the most difficult battles in today’s society – that of raising drug free children. Communication is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal in keeping our kids off drugs. Yet for some reason, it is the most feared, and is seldom used. We as parents, educators, and supportive organizations, must set the tone, set the standards, and set the societal norm. We must talk to our children on a continuing basis about the dangers of drugs, and be active participants in their lives. Together we can change the face of drug addiction in our communities.

Works Cited
“ADASK” Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Statistics, Trends, and Costs. 2004. 30 May 2022

“Teen Substance Abuse” GDCADA. 9 March 2005. 28 May 2022

“The Teen Drug Scene” Diabetes Forecast: The Teen Drug Scene. 2003. 30 May 2022