CASA 1998 Back to School Teen Survey
TRANSITION FROM AGE 12 TO 13 MARKS CRITICAL TURNING POINT IN ACCESS TO DRUGS AND ATTITUDES ABOUT THEM: BY 13 TEENS KNOW STUDENT WHO USES AND SELLS POT, ACID, COCAINE, HEROIN
51% of HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS SEE SCHOOL DRUG SITUATION GETTING WORSE; 78% SAY DRUGS ARE USED, SOLD AND KEPT ON SCHOOL GROUNDS
Nearly Half of Teens Say Parents Never Discussed
Dangers of Drugs with Them
Religion Major Factor in Keeping Teens Drug-Free
The transition from age 12 to 13 is the most critical turning point in the lives of America's children. It is the year when their access and exposure to illegal drugs skyrocket while parental involvement in their lives dramatically diminishes, according to Back to School 1998 -- The CASA National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse IV: Teens, Teachers and Principals, released today in Washington , D.C. by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA)*, and Dr. Frank Luntz, President of The Luntz Research Companies.
The CASA survey reveals that at age 13, teenagers get to know other students who use and sell pot, acid, cocaine or heroin; learn where to buy these drugs and who to buy them from, and significantly change their attitudes about reporting student drug users and sellers and communicating openly with parents. At the very same time, 47% of 13-year-olds say their parents have never seriously discussed the dangers of illegal drugs with them. Nearly two-thirds of all teens report that their parents have discussed the dangers of drugs with them less than three times.
"Bluntly put, in 1990's America we have created for children at the moment of entry into the first teen year a world where drugs, alcohol and cigarettes are widely available at school and from classmates," said Califano. "It is a world where parents, teachers and principals are in such a state of denial about the risk of substance abuse and addiction these children face that they are not providing the support these children need.
"CASA's 1998 survey leaves parents with one critical message: we must prepare our children at earlier and earlier ages to resist the lure of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. Our survey should give parents confidence that they can influence their teenagers," he said.
From 12 to 13: The Turning Point Year
To determine when tobacco, alcohol and drugs become a significant factor in teenagers' lives, CASA analyzed their responses to 10 key questions designed to measure their perceptions, attitudes and experiences regarding addictive substances. The results show that this critical transition occurs between age 12 and 13--far earlier than many parents, teachers and principals seem to realize. In no other year do teens' perceptions and attitudes shift so markedly. A 13-year-old is:
almost three times likelier to know a teen who uses acid, cocaine or heroin than a 12-year-old
more than 3 times likelier to be able to buy pot and to buy acid, cocaine or heroin
almost 3 times likelier to know a student drug seller
more than 3 times likelier to be unwilling to report a student they see using drugs
A 13-year-old is also far less likely to be afraid of getting caught using illegal drugs, to rely on parents rather than friends in making important decisions, to find an adult home after school and to tell their parents where they go after school and on weekends.
The transition from age 12 to 13 signals the biggest increase in teens' use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Over the three-year period from age 12 to 15, the proportion of teens who have smoked cigarettes in the last month soars from 2% to 15%; the share of teens who report having been drunk in the last month climbs from 2% to 21%, and the share saying they smoked marijuana jumps from 1% to 34%.
Teens Say Drugs Greatest Concern, Drug Problem Getting Worse--
Principals and Teachers Don't Get It
The survey also shows that our teenagers are thrown into a world where smoking, drinking and using pot are commonplace. A majority (51%) of high school students say the drug problem is getting worse and, for the fourth straight year, both middle and high school students say that drugs are their biggest concern. For the third straight year, the number of high school teens who report that drugs are used, sold and kept at their schools has risen: from 72% in 1996 to 78% in 1998. By age 17, only 23% say their school is drug-free, 54% say that alcohol was available at most parties they attended in the past six months and 35% say pot available.
If these concerns and perceptions mean our teens are crying out for help, then their teachers and principals aren't hear ing them:
In middle school, 25% teachers and 10% principals say their schools are not drug-free compared with 53% of students; in high school, 44% of teachers and 18% of principals say their schools are not drug-free compared with 78% of students.
In middle school, 36% students and 33% of teachers say the drug problem is getting worse compared to only 10% of principals; in high school, 51% of students and 41% of teachers say it is getting worse compared with 15% of principals.
In high school, 50% of teachers and 48% of principals believe a teen can smoke pot every weekend and still do well in school compared to 23% of teens.
71% of high school students think more than half the students tried pot; only 27% of principals and 26% of teachers do.
"We may soon witness a national consensus that the elementary and secondary education system in America has collapsed and needs a complete overhaul. That collapse will be due, in no small measure, to the fact that the nation's schools are riddled with illegal drugs, alcohol and cigarettes," said Califano. "In our survey, students, teachers and principals say that schools would be drug-free if students, teachers and principals wanted them to be. If that self-assessment is correct, then the parents of this nation should rise up in anger and demand that students, teachers and principals take the actions necessary to make our schools drug-free."
Noted Frank Luntz: "The failure of principals and teachers to understand the world in which teens are living greatly increases the risk that teens will use alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. To save our kids, principals must take responsibility for the reality these teens face at school and show leadership in dealing with this crisis."
Religion A Major Factor
There is a dramatic difference between substance use by teens who attend religious services at least four times a month and those who attend less than once a month:
Only 8% who attend religious services at least four times a month smoked cigarettes compared to 22% who attend less than once a month.
Only 13% who attend four times or more have smoked marijuana compared to 39% who attend less than once a month.
Only 20% who attend four times or more say at least half their friends drink compared to 38% who attend less than once a month.
Only 49% who attend four times or more know a friend or classmate who has used illegal drugs like acid, cocaine or heroin compared to 62% who attend less than once a month.
Signs of a Teen at Risk
As in past years, CASA seeks to identify risk factors including attendance at religious services, after school activities, eating dinner with parents and parental monitoring and their correlation with teen smoking, drinking and using drugs. Teens who hang with friends after school, go home to an empty house, rarely eat dinner with their family, listen to seven or more hours of music a day, don't attend religious services regularly, and get C's or lower grades are far likelier to smoke, drink or use pot.
31% who never smoked pot always eat dinner with their parents compared to only 14% who smoked pot.
45% who never smoked pot rely most on their parents' opinion compared to 21% who smoked pot.
17% who never smoked pots hang out with friends after school compared to 31% who smoked pot.
For parents who believe they have little influence over their adolescents, teens tell us their parents do influence them in resisting drugs while friends influence those teens most who decide to use drugs:
43% of teens who never smoked marijuana cite their parents as having the most influence over their decision not to smoke pot; 31% credit themselves.
50% of teens who smoked marijuana cite their friends as most influential; 30% cite themselves.
To gain a better sense of parental influence, the survey asked a series of questions regarding parental monitoring and parent/teen communication. We found that teens who smoke, drink or use pot are less likely to tell their parents where they are on weekends or after school, less likely to have a parent at home after school, and less likely to rely on parents' opinions when they making important decisions.
The Smoking/Drinking/Drug Connection
The survey also demonstrated that teens who use one substance are far more likely to use another. "The powerful correlations among teens who smoke, drink and use marijuana and expect to try an illegal drug in the future make it essential for parents, principals and teachers to focus on all substances in their prevention efforts," said Califano.
63% of smokers got drunk at least once a month compared with 10% of teens who never smoked.
79% of smokers also have smoked marijuana compared with 14% of teens who have never smoked.
45% of pot smokers also smoked a cigarette in past month compared to 3% of non-pot smokers.
60% of pot smokers also drank alcohol in the past month compared with 15% of non-pot smokers.
56% of pot smokers get drunk at least once a month compared with 6% of non-pot smokers, and 40% are likely to use an illegal drug in the future compared with 11% of non-pot smokers.
The 1998 CASA survey, conducted by The Luntz Research Companies during May, June and July, surveyed 1,000 teenagers age 12 to 17 (margin of error ñ 3.1%) and 824 teachers and 822 principals (margin of error ñ 3.5%). The survey was funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA's missions are to: inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace shame and despair with hope.