Statistics and Facts about Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse

The Problem

Drug use among teens has been a major concern for several decades. Teen substance abuse is considered a public health problem in the U.S. However, for adults who worry about a teen in their family or circle of friends, the issue of drug use by teens is a very personal and private concern.

Many people find that knowing numbers, statistics, and basic facts about teen drug use allows them to make better decisions and be more helpful to teens in their lives, whether those teens are occasional marijuana smokers or drinkers or seriously addicted to one or more drugs.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, under the National Institute of Health (NIH), has identified several troubling trends in drug use among teens. It’s helpful to look at these trends in terms of each category or type of drug, to see where the most dangers lie and how teens are using drugs now, as opposed to recent years and farther back in time.

While teen drug use is a severe problem, there is hope and help available to you and your teen, don’t wait call today.


Teens have used marijuana for decades. According to the NIH, marijuana use is rising. In 2013, a survey of 8th graders showed that 7 percent had used marijuana in the last month, compared with 18 percent of 10th graders and 22.7 percent of 12th graders.

These numbers are a significant increase from 2008, when the numbers were 5.8 percent for 8th graders, 13.8 percent for 10th graders and 19.4 percent for 12th graders.

The numbers look gloomier for daily use of marijuana, with 5 percent of 12th graders admitting to daily use in 2013 compared to 5 percent in 2008.

As should be expected, the increase in marijuana abuse seems to come from a wider acceptance of marijuana use and a perception that marijuana is a safe drug. As efforts to legalize marijuana for medical use and for adult recreational use in some states gain traction, teen marijuana use is likely to continue to grow.


Where the news about marijuana is mostly bad, the news about alcohol use among teens is surprisingly good. Teen alcohol use stands at historically low levels

The NIH reports that in 2013, 3.5 percent of 8th grade students, 12.8 percent of students in 10th grade and 26 percent of 12th graders said that they had gotten drunk in the past month. This decline, part of an ongoing reduction in teen alcohol use, holds true for daily alcohol use as well, with 0.9 percent of 10th graders and 2.2 percent of 10th graders reporting daily drinking.

Binge drinking is also in decline, with 22.1 percent of 12th graders reporting drinking five or more drinks in a row during the last two weeks. This is a drop of nearly one-third in binge drinking since the late 1990s.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug abuse remains a significant problem for teens, with Adderall, Vicodin, and cough products containing dextromethorphan being the primary targets of abuse.

In 2013, 5 percent of high school seniors reported using a prescription drug for non-medical reasons in the past year.

4 percent of seniors admitted abusing ADHD drug Adderall. Vicodin use is actually down, at 5.3 percent compared to 2003. Dextromethorphan use is also down to 5 percent from 6.9 percent in 2006 when it was first added to the survey.

Club Drugs

While synthetic drugs, sometimes known as club drugs, remain a cause for concern among teens, the use of club drugs is not increasing. Synthetic marijuana and bath salts are the biggest issues among club drugs because of the wildly varying ingredients and the extreme reactions that have resulted, including death.

In 2013, 7.9 percent of 12th graders reported using bath salts, down from 11.4 percent in 2011, and only 0.9 percent of seniors in 2013 admitted using bath salts, which were added to the survey in 2012.

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