In a recent survey, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University stated that about 17% of the United States high school students drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use other drugs during the school day.
It’s no surprise to their classmates either as 86% of teens say they know the 2.8 million kids who are abusing drugs, alcohol and cigarettes during the day. The latest version of the annual back-to-school survey also states that the estimate is based on information obtained from telephone interviews with about 1,000 kids ages 12 to 17.
The survey also discovered that 44% of high school students know a classmate who sells drugs at school, and 60% say that drugs are available on campus. Marijuana was the most-sold on school grounds, students said, as well as prescription drugs like pain medication as well as cocaine and ecstasy.
Social Media Peer Pressure to Use Drugs & Alcohol
The study also found that teens are not just talking about drugs, alcohol and partying in the school halls today. Digital peer pressure through social media is a huge problem. For example, the survey found that 75% of 12 to 17 year-old teens say they are more interested in trying marijuana or alcohol when they see images of their classmates doing it.
Some 45% have seen online photos of their classmates drinking, doing drugs or passing out – a statistic that’s up 5% since the survey.
Interestingly, teens who have not seen their class mates doing drugs are much less likely to try drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, the survey said.
No Longer Just a Public School Problem
The survey also shows a big increase in drug use for students in private schools. In 2011, 36% of private school students said their school was “drug-infected.” But in the past year, that figure jumped to 54%.
It was the first time in the history of the survey that a majority of private school students reported drugs on campus. The overall proportion of high school students, public and private, who reported drug-infected campuses was 60%.
What Should We Do To Help Our Teens?
The survey is illuminating on so many levels. Teens who say their parents are more laid back about drug or tobacco use are much more likely to smoke or drink, according to the survey.
Teens who say they’ve been left alone overnight – almost 30% of those surveyed – are about twice as likely to have used alcohol or marijuana and almost three times more likely to have tried tobacco than teens who’ve never been left alone at night.
Faith plays a role here, too. Teens who regularly attend religious services aren’t as likely to use illegal substances or tobacco.
Communication with your teen is critical today. As a parent you should know who they are talking to both online and in-person. Ask your teen’s school what measures they are taking to stay on top of substance abuse and smoking determent and how you might help. Most addictions begin in the teenage years but can be reduced when parents and schools get involved.