Drug, Alcohol and Tobacco Use Among Teens In Decline

By Paul Gaita 09/19/14

The annual SAMHSA survey found that rates of use for most substances have dropped significantly, though most Americans are still not getting treatment.

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A study from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has found that illegal drug use among American teenagers has dropped, along with rates for alcohol use, binge drinking, and smoking tobacco.

The annual survey, which profiles 70,000 individuals aged 12 years or older across the United States, showed that between 2002 and 2013, substance abuse issues among teenagers dropped from 8.9% to 5.2%, while rates of drug abuse among teens between the ages of 12-17 also dropped from 12% in 2002 to under 9% in 2013.

Alcohol use experienced a similar decline in a single year, dropping from 13% in 2012 to 11.6% the following year, while rates of binge drinking, which was reported as a problem for 10% of high school students in 2013, fell from about 7% to approximately 6%.

Rates of driving under the influence among preteens and teens in 2013 went from 14% in 2002 to 11%, while use of tobacco products among teenagers plummeted from 15% to 8% during the same time period.

While the study’s results are encouraging, the authors were quick to note that almost 25 million Americans aged 12 and older are current illegal drug users or had used within the past month. Marijuana use in that demographic actually rose from 6% in 2007 to 7.5%, which constitutes nearly 20 million individuals. The survey also revealed that many Americans are not getting the treatment they need for substance abuse issues.

According to their findings, SAMHSA learned that almost 23 million Americans aged 12 and older needed treatment for drug or alcohol problems, but only 2.5 million sought professional help.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.