Survey Says: Teens Are Drinking, Smoking, and Drugging On Or Near Campus

English: Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
       Joseph A. Califano, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The start of a new high school year is always an anxious time. Students are anxious about their school schedule, their classes, meeting new students, participating in school activities…and fitting in. Parents are anxious, too, about what the school year will bring for their children. They worry about: school schedules (including bus and carpool schedules); their student’s performance; their children prepping for the SAT and ACT proficiency exams; and extracurricular activities. Additionally, parents fear their children will be exposed to alcohol, drugs and smoking. A new study appears to validate this fear: 86% of high school students surveyed report that some of their fellow classmates indeed smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs during the school day.

For the past 17 years Columbia University’s National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASAColumbia) has surveyed teens about peers regarding smoking, drinking, and using drugs. In 2012 the survey was conducted via telephone by QEV Analytics LTD. In April and May 2012, 1003 (493 boys and 510 girls) students between the age of 12 to 17 participated in the survey process. Here you can read the full survey National Survey Of American Attitudes On Substance Abuse XVII: Teens.

According to a Los Angeles Times article the survey results breakdown as follows:

  • Students estimated that 17% of their peers are drinking, using drugs or smoking during the school day. Additionally, the students say that about one-half of this behavior takes place either on campus or near the campus.
  • Overall, the students estimated that 47% of classmates drink alcohol, 40% use drugs and 30% smoke cigarettes.
  • 60% of high school students and 32% of middle school students say their peers keep or sell drugs on campus. 
  • 44% of the students indicate they know someone that sells drugs on campus and 91% indicated they know someone who sells marijuana.
  • 45% of the teens reported that they have seen photos on Facebook and other social media of teens getting drunk or using drugs. Interestingly, 6% of students who have never seen such photos have used marijuana, while 25% of those who have seen such photos have used marijuana. Regarding alcohol use, the numbers are 13% versus 43% respectively.
  • About half of those surveyed say they have at least one friend who uses illegal drugs like acid, ecstasy, meth, cocaine or heroin. One-third says they have a friend who abuses prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

Do you have high school aged children? Do these survey results shock you?

For sure, Joseph A. Califano former Unites States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and founder of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASAColumbia) found the results “profoundly disturbing.” He went on to say: “And it’s inexcusable that parents, who raise hell and refuse to send their children to school if there’s asbestos in the classroom ceiling, or a serious outbreak of flu, nevertheless send their kids day after day to school where it is so easy for those kids to buy and use drugs.”

While Mr. Califano’s comments may seem harsh, parents might be relieved to know that in the same survey 90% of the teens surveyed said they would never or not likely try drugs in the future and 81% of the students indicated that their schools would offer counseling or other assistance for a student with a problem.

Again, parenting is a full-time profession! Navigating the teenage years requires diligence, particularly when teens readily admit that they have easy access to cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. The disease of addiction can and does start very early in life. It is a baffling disease and those who suffer from addiction are very good at hiding their problem for many years, particularly when parents are routinely out of the home working and not available to supervise every activity their teenage daughters and sons become involved in.  

It is important to remember that research can supply many statistics, but at the same time research results almost always raise more questions. For sure, the results reported by CASAColumbia‘s latest survey will start the conversation and engage the community of teens and parents.  Hopefully this engagement can start in the home and not just in social media.

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