Teens In Danger Drugs & Alcohol Abuse

A study done on the Adolescent Supplement of the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS-A) looked at more than 10,000 U.S. teens’ drug abuse habits. Here’s what these experts are saying about teen drug abuse.

Teen Drug Abuse Statistics

  • 78.2% of the participants between the ages of 17 and 18 years had consumed alcohol at least once and that nearly half were regular users. Of all participants, 15.1% met criteria for lifetime alcohol abuse. (1)
  • Results showed that 59.8% of all participants had consumed alcohol at some point in their lives. This included 42.5% of those between the ages of 13 and 14 years and 64.9% of those between the ages of 15 and 16 years. (1)
  • 25.2% of all participants reported regular use of alcohol, including 47.1% of those between the ages of 17 and 18 years. (1)
  • Of all participants, 60.2% reported having had the opportunity to use drugs, including 81.4% of those between 17 and 18 years, 67.1% of those between 15 and 16 years, and 39.2% of those between 13 and 14 years. (1)
  • A total of 24.4% of all the teens reported having used illicit drugs at least once. This included 9.6% of those in the youngest cohort, meaning nearly a quarter of those exposed to drugs went on to use. (1)
  • The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry warns that the average age of first marijuana use is 14, while alcohol use can begin as early as 12. They also believe that out of the estimated 20 million alcoholics in America, more than half began drinking as teens. (2)

Preventing Substance Abuse Among Adolescents

Clearly, our teens are in danger of abusing drugs and alcohol. “The patterns of alcohol and drug use that emerge during adolescence are increasingly recognized as important determinants of later substance use behavior and associated disorders,” Joel Swendsen, PhD, from the National Center for Scientific Research at the University of Bordeaux, France, and colleagues write. (1)

Now that we know the statistics, we must work on the solutions to the problem, and find ways to prevent teens from ever starting to use drugs or alcohol. The most effective programs target youth early, according to the researchers of this study. “Because the early onset of substance use is a significant predictor of substance use behavior and disorders in a lifespan, the public health implications of the current findings are far reaching. The prevention of both alcohol and illicit drug abuse requires strategies that target early adolescence and take into account the highly differential influence that population-based factors may exert by stage of substance use.” (3)


(1) Survey reveals shocking levels of teen drinking, drug abuse

(2) Most Cases of Drug, Alcohol Abuse Start in Adolescence

(3) Most Teens Have Experimented With Drugs Or Alcohol 

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