Research shows that, among eighth to twelfth graders, a majority of students report they did not use alcohol, tobacco products, or illegal drugs during the past 30 days. SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that approximately 19.3 million people aged 18 or older had a substance use disorder in the past year. Students who are disengaged in school are more likely to abuse substances. In contrast, students who plan on completing four years of college are much more likely to avoid using alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs. For example, among eighth-graders, students with college plans are more than four times as likely as those without to be substance-free.
Most students do not drink; however, those who do are likely to be “binge” drinkers—consuming large quantities of alcohol specifically to “get drunk.” Binge drinking is associated with poor school performance, and involvement in other health risk behaviors, such as riding with a driver who has been drinking, cigarette smoking, sexual behaviors related to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV infection, being a victim of dating violence, attempting suicide, and using illegal drugs. In 2010, nearly a third of all traffic deaths among young drivers ages 15 to 20 were alcohol-related. Consuming larger quantities of alcohol is also associated a risk factor for cancer among young women with benign breast disease. Among illegal drugs, marijuana is by far the most commonly used by young people.
Reducing rates of cigarette smoking among teens has been one of the greatest public health success stories of recent times. However, some teens may not realize that more recently promoted forms of tobacco—such as small cigars, lozenges, hookah pipes, edibles, or vaping/e-cigarettes—carry health dangers equal to or greater than those associated with cigarettes. Youth who use multiple tobacco products are at higher risk for developing nicotine dependence and might be more likely to continue using tobacco into adulthood.
Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/substance-abuse/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adolescent and School Health: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/alcoholdrug/index.htm
Astor, R. A., Benbenishty, R., & Watson, K. R. (2021). A conceptual and large-scale empirical examination of the Welcoming Empowerment Monitoring Approach (WEMA) for school safety and substance use reduction. Research on Social Work Practice, 31(5), 454-468.
Sloboda, Z., Pyakuryal, A., Stephens, P. C., Teasdale, B., Forrest, D., Stephens, R. C., & Grey, S. F. (2008). Reports of substance abuse prevention programming available in schools. Prevention Science, 9(4), 276-287.
Carboni, J. (2007). Substance abuse prevention methods for middle school students. Georgia State University Center for School Safety, School Climate and Classroom Management website: http://education. gsu. edu/schoolsafety.
Kann L, McManus T, Harris WA, et al. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2017. MMWR Surveill Summ 2018;67(No. SS-8):1–114. DOI: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2017/ss6708.pdf
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2019 Feb 28].
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 16). Smoking and Tobacco Use: Youth and tobacco use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/youth_data/tobacco_use/index.htm#
Alcohol, Tobacco, and other drugs. SAMHSA. (2021, December 29). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/atod