Illicit Drug Use By Teenagers On The Rise In US Schools

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

A new survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia) in New York City found that 90 percent of high school students in the U.S. are aware of fellow students using illicit drugs, like alcohol and tobacco, during school hours.

In the study, conducted from April 18 to May 17, the teens noted that around 17 percent of students were abusing drugs during school hours; this amounts to approximately 2.8 million who engaged in illicit drug use.

“The findings are alarming but not surprising,” Bruce Goldman, director of substance abuse services at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, told Amanda Gardner of U.S. News.

“We know that teens abuse alcohol, cannabis, prescription medications. It makes sense that they do it at school where they congregate with their peers,” added Goldman, who was not part of the new study.

The survey also highlighted how schools can be a focal point for drug-dealing activity, with 44 percent of high school students noting that a fellow student sold drugs on their campus. As well, half of the survey participants were aware of a place on campus where they could drink or get high during school hours. Over one third of students stated that they had found time during the day to drink, smoke, or use drugs without being noticed by school administrators. The survey included responses form 1,003 high school students between the ages of 12 and 17.

According to the Daily Mail, the most common drug sold at school was marijuana (91 percent), prescription drugs (9 percent), and ecstasy (7 percent).

“For millions of parents trying to raise drug-free kids, the “high” school years are the most dangerous times their children face, and the “high” schools are a dangerous place to send their kids,” commented Joseph A. Califano, Jr., the founder and Chairman Emeritus of CASAColumbia, in the Daily Mail article.

One of the causes of the increase in illicit drug use could be social media. In the survey, 75 percent of high school students stated that seeing other teens party via websites like Facebook or MySpace made them want to engage in the same activity. Almost half of the teens that saw those images thought that the people were “having a good time.” As such, teens that saw those kinds of pictures had a three or four times higher chance of using alcohol, marijuana, or tobacco than teens that hadn´t seen the pictures.

“Seeing teens partying with alcohol or marijuana on Facebook and other sites encourages other teens to want to party like that,” explained Emily Feinstein, project director for the survey and a senior policy analyst with CASAColumbia. “Clearly, parents really need to help children navigate that world safely.”

The survey also examined parental expectations and parental supervision regarding drug use by teens. As compared to children who were not left alone, the scientists found that children were two times more likely to use alcohol or marijuana if they were left alone overnight. Also, teens that thought their parents would not be “extremely upset” by their drug use had a lower likelihood of using illicitly drugs.

“Parents need to be hyper vigilant and monitor their children’s friends, both virtual and reality,” Goldman told U.S. News.

The researchers believe that it is necessary to examine the results of the survey to develop solutions to target teen illicit drug use.

“Preventing addiction is all about preventing teen substance use because the developing brain is more vulnerable. We really need to look at this as a health care problem rather than a behavioral problem and start screening and intervening early,” concluded Feinstein.

According to U.S. News, the survey by CASAColumbia follows a recent report by a U.S. government agency that discovered that more teenagers began drinking alcohol as well as smoking cigarettes and marijuana in June and July as compared to any other month.

Drug use is also increasing in public and private schools.

In 2002, 24 percent of students at private high schools said that drugs were available as compared to 54 percent of high school students in the current survey; in 2002, 45 percent of public school students said that their campus was “drug infected,” as compared to the current survey where 61 percent of students noticed the use of drugs at their school.