Teen Drug Abuse: The Latest Statistics

Teen drug abuse is a terrifying topic for parents. Try as they may to talk to their kids about the dangers of drugs, all too often peer pressure simply wins out over obedience and common sense.

A national survey called “Monitoring the Future” offers an interesting snapshot of teen drug abuse. Surveys are conducted separately by grade level; students in grades eight, ten, and twelve are surveyed. The results are both good and bad, depending on the type of drug used.

Let’s start with the good news for parents. Last year, 21% of 8th graders claimed to have tried an illicit drug at some point—that number more than doubles to 48% by 12th grade. That means there is a four year window of opportunity for parents to make an impact by dissuading their children to use.

Also promising are the stats on cocaine. Over the past three years, cocaine use has dropped sharply in all three grade levels. Teens are smoking cigarettes less. Alcohol use also dropped slightly in all three areas, though it is still the most-consumed drug (more than 70% of all 10th graders have tried alcohol).

Now for the not-so-good news. Overall, there has been a steady increase over the past three years of illicit drug use in all three grade levels. In fact, more than 45% of 12th graders surveyed claimed to have tried drugs. So despite several years of anti-drug campaigns, teens have not been completely swayed.

Marijuana use is up two percentage points in all three grade levels. This may be because pop culture portrays the drug as not that dangerous, and there has been a lot of public awareness about medical marijuana.

Methamphetamine use is on the rise for older teens, particularly seniors who were surveyed. Perhaps the pressure of college tests and graduation makes this drug more appealing, despite its looming dangers. This may also be the reason for an increase in cough syrup consumption by seniors, since these types of medicines also work to keep you “alert”.

Though recent data pertaining to teen drug abuse is less than encouraging, it is important to point out that aggressive teen marketing campaigns have had come success. For example, the anti-cigarette (smelly, puking habit) will forever be remembered, and may have turned the pop-culture tide against smoking.  These types of campaigns are important, as is the continued involvement of parents in their teens’ lives.


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