Teens at Drug-Free Schools at Half the Risk of Substance Abuse as Those at Schools Where Drugs are Used, Kept or Sold
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A majority of teens say their school is drug free, according to The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VII: Teens, Parents and Siblings, released today by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. Sixty-two percent of 12 – 17 year-olds in public schools report their schools are drug-free, compared to 42 percent in 2000. This is the first time in the seven-year history of the survey that a majority of public school students are reporting drug-free schools. Parochial school students are also reporting increases in drug free schools. Seventy-nine percent of students in parochial schools say their school is drug free, compared to 65 percent in 2000. The survey was not conducted in 2001.
Teens who attend drug-free schools are at roughly half the risk of substance abuse as teens attending schools where drugs are used, kept or sold. Despite the increase in the number of schools that are drug free, 25 percent of students say they have personally witnessed the sale of illegal drugs on school grounds.
“The dramatic increase in the number of drug-free schools demonstrates that change is possible,” says Joseph A. Califano, Jr., former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and CASA president. “Yet too many parents remain silent while their teens continue to be put at risk by attending drug-infested schools. Parents must raise their voices and refuse to tolerate drugs in their teens' schools to maintain this improvement and move the 63 percent toward 100 percent. It's time all American parents get as angry about drugs in schools as they are about asbestos in schools.” CASA has compiled a list of ten questions that every parent should ask of the school their child attends. The list is attached.
SIBLINGS: PROTECTORS OR PUSHERS
The 2002 survey includes CASA's first effort to examine the impact siblings have on teens' substance-abuse risk.
- 67 percent of teens with an older sibling say their older brothers or sisters would be “very angry” to find out they were using marijuana. These teens are at a substantially lower risk of substance abuse.
- 48 percent of teens with an older sibling believe that sibling may have tried illegal drugs. These younger teens are one and a half times likelier to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs than the average teen.
- 12 percent of teens with an older sibling report that an older brother or sister had offered them illegal drugs or encouraged their use. A teen who lives with a pusher in the home is at almost twice the risk of substance abuse as the average teen.
THE EARLY TEENS: THE DANGEROUS YEARS
Teen risk of substance abuse increases by almost 500 percent between the ages of 12 and 16. It is in these “dangerous years” that most teens who use alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana initiate their use. The survey findings indicate that:
“A loud and clear message of the survey is that it is never too early to educate our nation's children about the perils of drug use,” says Califano. “Drug education efforts must begin as early as elementary school. Teachers, administrators and parents need to recognize the harsh reality that for most teens, high school—and often middle school—is too late.”
- 95 percent of teens who smoke cigarettes start at or before age 15. Average age of first use for these teens is 12 ¼.
- 93 percent of teens who drink alcohol start at or before age 15. Average age of first use for these teens is 12 ½.
- 86 percent of teens who smoke pot start at or before age 15. Average age of first use for these teens is 13 ½.
DRUGS TEENS BIGGEST CONCERN; MARIJUANA EASIER TO BUY THAN CIGARETTES AND BEER
For the seventh survey in a row, teens continue to cite drugs as their biggest concern in response to an open-ended question. Twenty-nine percent of teens said drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, are their biggest concern, up from 26 percent in 2000.
For the first time, a higher percentage of teens find marijuana easier to buy than cigarettes and alcohol.
The survey was conducted by QEV Analytics. Interviews with 1,000 teenagers and 541 parents were conducted by telephone between December 27, 2001 and February 6, 2002. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent for teens, 4.2 percent for parents.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) 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.
With a staff of 74 professionals, CASA has conducted demonstration projects in 60 sites in 32 cities and 21 states focused on children, families and schools, and has been testing the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment, monitoring 15,000 individuals in more than 200 programs and five drug courts in 26 states.