Drug Use Rises Among High School Students

From the WebMD Archives

July 19, 2001 (Washington) -- Drug use is on the rise among high school students after several years of declining use, according to new results from an annual survey used to help guide the nation's drug control policies.

According to the Pride survey, high school students (grades 9-12) reported higher use of marijuana, uppers, downers, hallucinogens, and heroin compared with last year's study.

Doug Hall, spokesman for Pride, says, "We are finding a really tough nut to crack among the older students."

Meanwhile, among junior high students, drug use appeared to climb slightly, but the results were not "statistically significant."

According to the new survey, 22.5% of high schoolers said they used at least one illicit drug on a monthly basis, while 35.3% used a drug at least once in the 2000-01 school year. By contrast, in the 1999-2000 year, 21.3% reported monthly use, and 34.3% reported yearly use.

The drug increase marked the survey's first discovered "reversal against progress" since the 1996-97 school year.

The results may steer federal policymakers to step up their drug prevention efforts with older teens.

The White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy says that it has primarily targeted students aged 11-13 in its anti-drug media campaigns. But Arthur Dean, chairman of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, says, "We need to expand upon these media and education programs and do a better job curbing drug use among high school students."

Thomas Gleaton, founder of the Pride survey, also says the results point to the possible need for increased efforts to target older teens in antidrug campaigns.

The Pride survey was conducted during the recently concluded school year and involved nearly 76,000 students in grades 6 through 12. It is the largest independent measure of youth drug use.

The survey also found that students living only with their father were more likely to use drugs than those youth in any other family configuration. By contrast, those students who lived with both of their parents were the least likely to report any use of illicit drugs.


Meanwhile, the survey brought some good news. Student use of alcohol and cigarettes dropped to its lowest level in more than 10 years, it said. Some 52.1% of students in grades 6 through 12 said that they had used alcohol within the last year, which was the smallest percentage since 52.0% reported this pattern of use in 1987-88.

For cigarettes, the survey found that annual use was 30.5% among those in grades 6 through 12; in 1987-88, 29.1% of students had reported smoking.

The survey also found the following:

  • Compared with last year, slightly fewer kids said their parents talked with them frequently about the risks of alcohol and drugs.
  • Children whose parents never talked to them about illicit drugs were far more likely to use these substances than kids whose parents spoke with them "a lot" about the problem.
  • Students with clear rules about family standards were much less likely to report use of illegal drugs.
  • Children who often attended religious services were less likely to report illicit drug use.

These results, says Edward Jurith, the White House acting drug czar, "confirm the importance of parental involvement in children's lives as one of the key factors in keeping kids off drugs."

Jurith says, "Youth with strong parental influences and access to local support networks are much less likely to use illegal drugs."

Carl Pickhardt, PhD, author of Keys to Raising a Drug-Free Child, tells WebMD, "what parents want to do is keep their kid as anchored as possible in activities and relationships that they really care about."

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