Young People and Drugs

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Page last updated June 10, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

31. Prevalence Among High School Students in the US of Having Ever Tried Cocaine, by Gender

"Nationwide, 4.8% of students had used any form of cocaine (e.g., powder, crack,†† or freebase§§) one or more times during their life (Supplementary Table 114). The prevalence of having ever used cocaine was higher among male (6.1%) than female (3.5%) students; higher among white male (5.5%), black male (4.2%), and Hispanic male (8.1%) than white female (3.4%), black female (1.2%), and Hispanic female (4.6%) students, respectively; and higher among 9th-grade male (3.6%), 10th-grade male (5.5%), 11th-grade male (6.6%), and 12th-grade male (8.7%) than 9th-grade female (2.3%), 10th-grade female (2.3%), 11th-grade female (4.1%), and 12th-grade female (5.3%) students, respectively. The prevalence of having ever used cocaine was higher among white (4.4%) and Hispanic (6.3%) than black (2.8%) students, higher among Hispanic (6.3%) than white (4.4%) students, higher among white female (3.4%) and Hispanic female (4.6%) than black female (1.2%) students, and higher among Hispanic male (8.1%) than white male (5.5%) and black male (4.2%) students. The prevalence of having ever used cocaine was higher among 12th-grade (7.0%) than 9th-grade (2.9%), 10th-grade (3.9%), and 11th-grade (5.4%) students; higher among 11th-grade (5.4%) than 9th-grade (2.9%) students; higher among 11th-grade female (4.1%) and 12th-grade female (5.3%) than 9th-grade female (2.3%) and 10th-grade female (2.3%) students; higher among 11th-grade male (6.6%) and 12th-grade male (8.7%) than 9th-grade male (3.6%) students; and higher among 12th-grade male (8.7%) than 10th-grade male (5.5%) students.

"Analyses based on the question ascertaining sexual identity indicated that nationwide, 4.2% of heterosexual students; 8.0% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students; and 10.4% of not sure students had ever used cocaine (Supplementary Table 114). The prevalence of having ever used cocaine was higher among gay, lesbian, and bisexual (8.0%) and not sure (10.4%) than heterosexual (4.2%) students. Among female students, the prevalence was higher among lesbian and bisexual (5.6%) than heterosexual (3.0%) students. Among male students, the prevalence was higher among gay and bisexual (14.6%) and not sure (15.1%) than heterosexual (5.2%) students. The prevalence also was higher among heterosexual male (5.2%) than heterosexual female (3.0%) students, higher among gay and bisexual male (14.6%) than lesbian and bisexual female (5.6%) students, and higher among not sure male (15.1%) than not sure female (6.0%) students."

Laura Kann, PhD; Tim McManus, MS; William A. Harris, MM; et al. "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2017," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries (Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control, June 15, 2018), Vol. 67, No. 8.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p...
https://www.cdc.gov/...

32. Marijuana Use Prevalence and Trends Among Youth in the US

"• Marijuana is by far the most widely used illicit drug. Nearly half of all 12th graders (45%), nearly one third of 10th graders (31%), and over one in seven 8th graders (14%) reported some marijuana use in their lifetime. Among 12th graders, 37% reported some use in the past year, and 23% reported some use in the past month. Among 10th graders, the corresponding percentages were 26% and 16%, respectively, and among 8th grade students, 10% and 5.5%.

"• Current daily marijuana use or near daily use (defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the past 30 days) is also noteworthy. About one in 17 twelfth graders (5.9%) used marijuana daily in the month prior to the survey, as did one in 34 tenth graders (2.9%) and one in 125 eighth graders (0.8%).

"• Using the questions on duration of daily use, we have found that, since 1982, the lifetime prevalence of daily marijuana use for a month or more has been far higher than the prevalence of current daily marijuana use. For example, among 12th graders in 2017, 14% reported using marijuana daily for at least a month at some point in their lives, which is more than twice as high as the 5.9% reporting current daily use. In past years the ratio was higher; for example, in 1988 the lifetime prevalence was more than four times as high as current prevalence (13% compared to 3%).

"• Use of synthetic marijuana has declined recently and in 2017 is fairly low, with annual prevalence levels at 2.0%, 2.7%, and 3.7% in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade, respectively.

"• Marijuana vaping has emerged in recent years as a new way to use marijuana. In 2017 the portion of adolescents who had ever tried it was 12%, 10%, and 4% in 12th, 10th, and 8th grade, respectively. The much higher levels of overall lifetime marijuana use indicate that traditional ways to use marijuana, such as smoking it, currently remain more common than vaping."

Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., & Patrick, M. E. (2018). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2017: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Available at
http://monitoringthefuture.org...
http://monitoringthefuture.org...

33. "Drug-Infected" Public Schools

"Sixty percent of high school students and 32 percent of middle school students say that students keep, use or sell drugs on their school grounds. For seven of the past eight years, at least 60 percent of high school students have said they attend a drug-infected school."

QEV Analytics, LTD., "National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens," The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (New York, NY: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, August 2012), p. 5.
http://www.casacolumbia.org/ad...

34. Opioids Do Not Have Potential To Cause Malformations To An Embryo Or Fetus

"It is important to note that, contrary to alcohol, benzodiazepines and nicotine, opioids do not have teratogenic potential (3). Thus, special attention needs to be paid to dependence and abuse of legal substances and prescription drugs that can have severe consequences for the foetus and newborn, such as foetal developmental disorders or sudden infant death syndrome (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Center for Excellence, 2013; McDonnell-Naughton et al., 2012)."

European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, "Pregnancy and opioid use: strategies for treatment," EMCDDA Papers (Publications Office of the European Union: Luxembourg, 2014), p. 3.
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/pu...
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/at...

35. Illegal or Improper Use of Prescription Drugs by High School Students in the US, by Gender

"Nationwide, 14.0% of students had taken prescription pain medicine (counting drugs such as codeine, Vicodin, OxyContin, Hydrocodone, and Percocet) without a doctor’s prescription or differently than how a doctor told them to use it one or more times during their life (Supplementary Table 127)). The prevalence of having ever taken prescription pain medicine without a doctor’s prescription or differently than how a doctor told them to use it was higher among Hispanic (15.1%) than black (12.3%) students and higher among Hispanic female (16.1%) than black female (12.5%) students. The prevalence of having ever taken prescription pain medicine without a doctor’s prescription or differently than how a doctor told them to use it was higher among 11th-grade (15.4%) and 12th-grade (17.0%) than 9th-grade (10.9%) students, higher among 12th-grade (17.0%) than 10th-grade (12.8%) students, higher among 11th-grade female (16.4%) and 12th-grade female (16.2%) than 9th-grade female (12.1%) students, higher among 11th-grade male (14.3%) and 12th-grade male (17.7%) than 9th-grade male (9.7%) students, and higher among 12th-grade male (17.7%) than 10th-grade male (12.2%) students.

"Analyses based on the question ascertaining sexual identity indicated that nationwide, 12.9% of heterosexual students; 24.3% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students; and 17.7% of not sure students had ever taken prescription pain medicine without a doctor’s prescription or differently than how a doctor told them to use it (Supplementary Table 127). The prevalence of having ever taken prescription pain medicine without a doctor’s prescription or differently than how a doctor told them to use it was higher among gay, lesbian, and bisexual (24.3%) and not sure (17.7%) than heterosexual (12.9%) students and higher among gay, lesbian, and bisexual (24.3%) than not sure (17.7%) students. Among female students, the prevalence was higher among lesbian and bisexual (23.8%) than heterosexual (12.9%) students. Among male students, the prevalence was higher among gay and bisexual (25.4%) than heterosexual (12.8%) and not sure (13.7%) students."

Laura Kann, PhD; Tim McManus, MS; William A. Harris, MM; et al. "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2017," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries (Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control, June 15, 2018), Vol. 67, No. 8.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p...
https://www.cdc.gov/...

36. Drugs Sold at School

"Almost half of high school students (44 percent) know a student who sells drugs at their school. When asked what drugs are sold at their school:

• 91 percent said marijuana;
• 24 percent said prescription drugs;
• 9 percent said cocaine; and
• 7 percent said ecstasy."

QEV Analytics, LTD., "National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens," The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (New York, NY: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, August 2012), p. 2.
http://www.casacolumbia.org/ad...

37. Vulnerability of Teens to Effects of Drugs

"The teen brain is a work in progress, making it more vulnerable than the mature brain to the physical effects of drugs. The potential for developing substance abuse and dependence is substantially greater when an individual’s first exposure to alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs occurs during adolescence than in adulthood."

Steinberg, L., Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Temple University and author of You and Your Adolescent: The Essential guide for ages 10 to 25 (personal communication, June 9, 2011), as quoted in "Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem," The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (New York, NY: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, June 2011), p. 13.
http://www.casacolumbia.org...

38. Proportion of Students Using Any Drug Changes Slowly

"Overall, these data reveal that, while use of individual drugs (other than marijuana) may fluctuate widely, the proportion using any of them is much more stable. In other words, the proportion of students prone to using such drugs and willing to cross the normative barriers to such use changes more gradually. The usage rate for each individual drug, on the other hand, reflects many more rapidly changing determinants specific to that drug: how widely its psychoactive potential is recognized, how favorable the reports of its supposed benefits are, how risky its use is seen to be, how acceptable it is in the peer group, how accessible it is, and so on."

Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2013). Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings, 2012. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, p. 10.
http://www.monitoringthefuture...

39. Likelihood That Young People with Diagnosed Mental Health Conditions Will be Put on Long Term Opioid Therapy

"In this nationwide study of commercially insured adolescents, LTOT [Long Term Opioid Therapy] was relatively uncommon. The estimated incidence of LTOT receipt was 3.0 per 1000 adolescents within 3 years of filling an initial opioid prescription. Although adolescents with a wide range of preexisting mental health conditions and treatments were modestly more likely than adolescents without those conditions or treatments to receive an initial opioid, the former had substantially higher rates of subsequent transitioning to LTOT. Associations were strongest for OUD [Opioid Use Disorder], OUD medications, nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics, and other SUDs. The associations were stronger sooner after first opioid receipt for OUD, as well as for anxiety and sleep disorders and their treatments, suggesting that adolescents with these conditions and treatments were more likely to quickly transition into LTOT."

Quinn PD, Hur K, Chang Z, et al. Association of Mental Health Conditions and Treatments With Long-term Opioid Analgesic Receipt Among Adolescents. JAMA Pediatr. 2018;172(5):423–430. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.5641
https://jamanetwork.com/journa...
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p...

40. Ease of Obtaining Drugs

"This year we asked teens, 'Which is easiest to get: cigarettes, marijuana, beer or prescription drugs?' (prior to 2010, we asked, 'Which is easiest to buy?') Cigarettes remain at the top of the list, with 27 percent of teens saying cigarettes are easier to get than other drugs. Beer closely followed cigarettes as the easiest drug for teens to get. Marijuana is third, with 19 percent of teens reporting that it is easiest to get this year, compared to 22 percent last year. Compared to 2011, slightly more teens this year say prescription drugs are easier to get than other drugs (13 percent in 2012 vs. 10 percent in 2011)."

QEV Analytics, LTD., "National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens," The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (New York, NY: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, August 2012), p. 21.
http://www.casacolumbia.org/ad...

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