Substance Abuse in High Schools - Consumer Justice Foundation

Substance Abuse in High Schools

Written by Faith Anderson on August 23, 2012
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High School “High”

With the beginning of the school year just around the corner for most students, the term “back to school” typically evokes thoughts of upcoming projects, new clothes and school supplies. Well this particular “back-to-school survey” interviewed 1,003 students between the ages of 12 and 17 over the telephone, asking instead about the use of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs in school. Of those surveyed, 86% of students said that they were aware of their classmates abusing substances during the school day. More than half indicated that there was a particular place on or near school grounds where students periodically go to drink, smoke and use drugs. Furthermore, nearly 44% of students said that they know a classmate who sells drugs, with marijuana being the most common, followed by prescription drugs, cocaine and ecstasy.

Drug and Alcohol Use in Schools isn’t New

The survey – which is the 17th annual of its kind – marks the sixth straight year that 60% or more teens reported that their high schools are “drug infected.” So that means this isn’t a new problem? While public schools appear to have been plagued with substance abuse for years, for the first time in the history of this back-to-school survey, a majority of private school students reported drugs on campus as well. The figure increased from 36% in 2011 to 54% in 2012. “For millions of American teens, drugs and alcohol, not more advanced education, are what put the ‘high’ in the high schools they attend,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. “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.”

Social Media and Lax Parental Rules Lead to Teen Substance Abuse

According to the study, peer pressure on the Internet seems to have played a significant role in getting teens started on drugs and alcohol – a factor that didn’t exist before the era of Facebook, Twitter and other social networking platforms. Seventy-five percent of respondents for example, said that seeing pictures online of their peers partying with marijuana and alcohol encourages other teens to imitate their actions. Compared to teens that have never seen such images, those who have are reportedly four times more likely to have used marijuana, and more than three times more likely to have used alcohol.

In addition, teens with parents who are less strict about tobacco and drug use are considerably more likely to drink or smoke than peers whose parents who strongly condemn these substances. During the survey, participants were also asked if they are ever left at home alone overnight without any kind of adult supervision. Nearly 30% of teens answered in the affirmative, and were found to be about twice as likely to have used marijuana or alcohol, and almost three times as likely to have tried tobacco than teens who have never been left alone overnight by parents. The results of this study are alarming, to say the least, and beg the question of how exactly school administrators intend to reduce or put an end to alcohol, tobacco and drug-use on school grounds. Could periodic drug-testing be in the works for high-schoolers?

Posted Under: Editorial
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