Perceived Availability of Drugs Among Young People in the US

"• Substantial differences were found in perceived availability of the various drugs. In general, the more widely used drugs are reported to be available by higher proportions of the age group, as would be expected (see Tables 9-6, 9-7, and 9-8). Also, older age groups generally perceive drugs to be more available. For example, in 2015, 37% of 8th graders said marijuana would be fairly easy or very easy to get (which we refer to as “readily available”), versus 66% of 10th graders and 80% of 12th graders. In fact, compared to 8th graders, the proportions of 12th graders indicating that drugs are available to them are two to four times as high for other illicit drugs included in the study. (On the other hand, 8th graders are a little less likely to report tranquilizers as available.) Both associations are consistent with the notion that availability is largely attained through friendship circles. (A section in Chapter 10 documents where 12th graders obtain prescription drugs that are not medically prescribed, and friends clearly are the leading source.) The differences among age groups may also reflect less willingness and/or motivation on the part of those who deal drugs to establish contact with younger adolescents. Because many inhalants—such as glues, butane, and aerosols—are universally available, we do not ask about their availability.

"• Measures on the availability of cigarettes are not included in the 12th-grade questionnaires because we have assumed that they are almost universally available to this age group. However, data on this measure are collected from 8th and 10th graders, which clearly show that most perceive cigarettes to be readily available. In 2015, 47% of 8th graders and 67% of 10th graders thought that cigarettes would be fairly easy or very easy for them to get if they wanted some.

"• The great majority of teens also see alcohol as readily available: In 2015, 54% of 8th graders, 75% of 10th graders, and 87% of 12th graders said it would be fairly easy or very easy to get."


Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2016). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2015: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, pp. 448-449. Available at