Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse 2003 | CASAColumbia

National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VIII: Teens and Parents

National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VIII: Teens and Parents

Published: August 2003

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This survey aims to identify the situations, individual and family characteristics, and social factors that are associated with teen drug abuse and addiction. Its primary purpose is to track attitudes of teens and those, like parents, who have the greatest influence on whether teens will smoke, drink, get drunk, use illegal drugs or abuse prescription drugs.

CASAColumbia’s teen surveys have consistently found that the family is fundamental to keeping children away from tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs. Teen drug abuse plays a major role in addiction. People who do not use tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs or misuse prescription drugs before age 21 are virtually certain never to do so. This report outlines several teen drug abuse facts and teen drug abuse statistics.


On behalf of CASAColumbia, QEV Analytics, a national public opinion research firm, conducted a nationally representative telephone-based survey of 1,987 teens, ages 12 to 17, and 504 parents, of whom 403 were parents of the teens we interviewed.


The risk that teens would smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs increased sharply if they were highly stressed, frequently bored or had substantial amounts of spending money. In fact, high-stress teens were twice as likely as low-stress teens to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs. 

The survey revealed:

  • Bored teens were 50% likelier than not-often-bored teens to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs
  • Teens with $25 or more a week in spending money were nearly twice as likely as teens with less spending money to smoke, drink and use illegal drugs, and more than twice as likely to get drunk
  • Teens exhibiting 2 or 3 of these characteristics (high stress, frequent boredom, too much spending money) were at a minimum of 3 times the risk of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs compared to those who exhibited none of these characteristics 
  • More than half of surveyed 12-to-17-year-olds (52%) were at greater risk of substance abuse because of high stress, frequent boredom, too much spending money or some combination of these characteristics

Other teen drug abuse statistics highlighted in the report include:

  • More than 20% of surveyed 12-to-17-year-olds could buy marijuana in an hour or less; another 19% could buy marijuana within a day 
  • For the first time in the survey’s 8-year history, teens were as concerned about social and academic pressures as they were about drugs 

A Note on the Language
In 2012, CASAColumbia stopped using words like “drug abuse”/“drug abuser” because the terms have negative connotations. Instead, we now distinguish between “addiction” (clinical criteria for the disease) and “risky use” (use of addictive substances in ways that increase the risk of harm but do not meet criteria for addiction). Some reports and other publications published prior to 2012 still contain this outdated language.

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