The availability of drugs at schools has increased over the last ten years although the overall use of illicit drugs has declined. Yet too many teenagers are still abusing drugs. In the National Institute on Drug Abuse 2005 Monitoring the Future survey researchers found that 50% of high school seniors report some use of an illicit drug during their life.
Drugs are easily obtained and teenagers know who they can contact to get them.
The Bureau of Justice reports that 85% of teens say they know where to get marijuana and 55% know how to get amphetamines. Knowledge of drug availability is similar regardless of race or location. Students living in rural, suburban, and urban areas all reported similar levels of drug availability at about 35% overall. Even more frightening is that 29% of students say that someone has “offered, sold, or given them an illegal drug on school property.”
Some officials believe that the percentages of actual drug abuse are low because of the number of teenagers that have dropped out or are truant are not represented in the survey. These teenagers often have a higher involvement with drugs than those still in school.
Alcohol is the most common substance used, with 75% of seniors having at least tried alcohol and 23% within the last month. Alcohol use is often glamorized in the media and teens try to imitate the behaviors they see.
Cigarettes are the next most common drugs abused by teenagers. Most teens assume they can quit smoking at will. Instead they often find themselves addicted. Few people start smoking after the teenage years.
Marijuana has been used by 44% of seniors. The NIDA reports that 60% of teens that do use drugs use marijuana. The most recent survey found that fewer eighth graders today see a risk in smoking marijuana than in the past.
Inhalants are the most commonly abused illegal drug among those in middle school with 17.1% of eight graders having tried them. Inhalants are cheap and easily purchased. Most of them are common household substances like paint thinners, glues, spray paint, whipped cream dispensers, hair sprays and other substances.
Prescription Drug use among teenagers has been rising at a rate of 25% per year since 2001. Most teens take prescription drugs because of personal or family-related stress.
Many teenagers are getting the message through school, parents, and the media that drugs are harmful. But many are still not receiving or are choosing to ignore the message. The best way to combat teenage drug abuse is by education that means consistently talking about drugs both formally and informally.