Survey Shows Drug-Infested US High Schools | The Fix
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Survey Shows Drug-Infested US High Schools

Using and dealing is rampant in schools, according to a major CASAColumbia survey—and social media seems to contribute.

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By Jennifer Matesa

08/22/12

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American high school students say that around 17% of their peers use drugs, alcohol or cigarettes during the school day—a total of around 2.8 million teens—according to the 17th annual back-to-school teen drug-use survey from the National Center on Addiction and Substances Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia). Eighty-six percent of the high-schoolers surveyed confirm that this happens. And almost half of them know where to buy drugs at school. As for what's on offer, 91% of kids surveyed report cannabis for sale on school property, and 24% prescription drugs. Private high schools are also rapidly catching up with public ones: 54% of such students now say drugs are rampant at their schools—that's shot up from just 36% in 2011. 

Significantly, three-quarters of the 12-17-year-olds surveyed said coming across photos of other kids drinking or smoking on Facebook and other social networking sites encourages them to want to get high—and almost half the teens say they see photos of kids passed out or using drugs. Compared to kids who haven’t seen pictures like these, kids who have are four times likelier to have smoked cannabis, more than three times likelier to have drunk booze, and almost three times as likely to be cigarette smokers.

Those who conducted the survey say the lesson for parents is that they have to show their kids they clearly disapprove of drug-use and drinking, which counters one strain of conventional parental wisdom: “I can’t believe how many parents of our teens say they always thought that, if their kids were drinking at home, it was OK because it was under their own roof,” says Nicole Kurash, program director for inpatient adolescent programs at Gateway Rehabilitation. Emily Feinstein, CASA’s senior policy analyst and the report’s director, tells The Fix, “Parents need to say they don’t want their kids to drink because it’s illegal and bad for them. They need to start talking to their children early—by the time they’re 7 or 8—about what’s going on in their lives.” Feinstein emphasizes that teenage brains are more vulnerable than adults’ to the effects of drugs and alcohol.

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