The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia) released their findings this month from the 17th annual 2012 National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse (XVII: Teens). According to the findings, 2012 is the sixth year in a row that 60 percent or more of high school teens reported that their schools are drug-infected.
“This year teens in our focus groups talked freely about the extent of drinking and drug use among their high school classmates, not only after school, but during the school day, smoking marijuana in the school cafeteria and attending classes while high on alcohol and drugs,” Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Founder and Chairman Emeritus of CASAColumbia said in a statement.
Nearly nine out of 10 high school students answered that they knew classmates who were drugging, drinking or smoking during the school day. Fifty-two percent reported a known place on or near the school grounds where students go to use substances. 44 percent of the students knew of another student who sold drugs at their school, and of those who did:
• 91 percent knew someone who sold marijuana
• 24 percent knew someone who sold prescription drugs
• 9 percent knew someone who sold cocaine, and
• 7 percent knew someone who sold ecstasy.
More than a third of high school students said that it was easy or fairly easy for students to drink, use drugs or smoke during the school day without getting caught. Additionally, the survey results expose that every six in 10 high schools and one in three middle schools are drug-infected.
“What many parents fail to appreciate is that tobacco, alcohol and drug use are pervasive and relentless fixtures in the teen world,” Califano said. He explained that although much of teen exposure to drugs happens at school and with friends, parents need to be aware that it also occurs at home through television and the Internet.
With the boom of social media, last year the survey included for the first time questions about whether or not teens had seen pictures of other kids getting drunk, passed out or using drugs on social networking sites. The findings from last year showed a correlation between the teens who were seeing these kinds of pictures and their likelier use of alcohol and marijuana. The study calls this “Digital Peer Pressure.” Seventy-five percent of the teens this year said that seeing pictures of kids partying on social networking sites encourages others teens to want to party as well, and 45 percent had seen pictures like this. Survey results found that those who had seen the pictures were:
• Four times more likely to have used marijuana (25 percent vs. 6 percent)
• More than three times likelier to have used alcohol (43 percent vs. 13 percent), and
• Nearly three times likelier to have used tobacco (16 percent vs. 6 percent).
The report also found that the drug-infestation gap between private schools and public schools is closing. Sixty-one percent of students at public high schools compared to 54 percent of students at private high schools said that their school was drug-infected.
This year, more kids are using illegal drugs (marijuana, acid, ecstacy, cocaine, meth and heroin) than are abusing prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines. Also, high school students are now more likely to use marijuana than to smoke cigarettes (24 percent have tried marijuana versus only 15 percent who have tried tobacco). Other studies have turned out similar results. According to a report published earlier this year by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs, American teens are less likely than European teens to use cigarettes and alcohol, but are more likely to use illicit drugs.
“One of the reasons that smoking and drinking rates among adolescents are so much lower here [in America] than in Europe is that both behaviors have been declining and have reached historically low levels in the U.S. over the 37-year life of the Monitoring the Future study,” reported the social psychologist Lloyd Johnston, who was involved with the European-American survey and is principal investigator for Monitoring the Future, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “But even in the earlier years of the European surveys, drinking and smoking by American adolescents was quite low by comparison. Use of illicit drugs is quite a different matter.”
U.S. students, in fact, tend to have among the highest rates of drug use out of all of the countries. According the study, the United States ranks third out of the 37 countries surveyed on the proportion of students using marijuana in the last 30 days (18 percent). American students also reported the highest level of availability of marijuana of all the countries and they associated the least risk with use.
The risks, however, may be greater than most teens realize. According to findings from a new study by Duke University researcher reported this Monday at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, teens dependent on marijuana risk a long-term drop in their IQ.
Young people “don’t think it’s risky,” explained Staci Gruber, a researcher at the Harvard-affiliated MacLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. told the Huffington Post in an interview. However, the idea that marijuana harms the adolescent brain, Gruber explained, is something they believe is very likely.
“We have often said that the most important finding of twenty years of intensive research is this: A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol, or using drugs is virtually certain never to do so,” Califano urged in his statement about the CASAColumbia national survey results. “It is unconscionable that states, cities and counties-and their elected governors, mayors, and commissioners-that require parents to send their children to school, continue year after year to allow those schools to be drug infected.”
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