NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
Find NIDA for Teens on: NIDAnews on Twitter NIDANIH on YouTube NIDANIH on Facebook
Real Teens Ask: Do Many Kids in High School Do Drugs?

Real Teens Ask: Do Many Kids in High School Do Drugs?

You are here

Sara Bellum
October 05, 2009

Questions about drugs? Lots of teens are asking. That's why each year NIDA scientists spend a day chatting online with high school students and answering their questions.

At our last Drug Facts Chat Day, Livelaughlove94 asked:

"Do many kids in high school do drugs?"

The best way to find out if high school kids do drugs is to ask them. That's exactly what NIDA does every year in its annual Monitoring the Future Study. This survey of more than 46,000 teens—8th, 10th, and 12th graders to be exact—showed that only about 3 percent, or 3 in 100 teens have used cocaine or Ecstasy in the last year, and only about 1 in 100 used methamphetamine. That's not a lot. Teens also said they were smoking a lot less now than teens used to smoke in the '90s—like 3x less if you're a 10th grader. So, what is the most commonly used illegal drug?—Marijuana. About a quarter of 10th graders say they have tried it in the past year. You can see the numbers for each major drug type in this report (PDF, 971.57KB).

So, to answer your question, not that many kids in high school do drugs, although marijuana is the most common. So even though it may seem like "everyone's doing it," know that not everyone really is.

For more details on specific results from the Monitoring the Future Study, feel free to browse an overview of the results.

 

Comments

I am from Hong Kong. We also face this teens drug abuse problem in recent years. The percentage spread is in the region of 10%. The most common drug is K. In December 2009, the government will start piloting a "Voluntary Drug Abuse Test" to high school students in one of the districts. We appreciate similar experiences from other places of the world.

There is a big possibilities that kids in high school engage into drugs. Teenage is a stage where different kinds of peers are pushing kids to be with them as a part of their group. During grade school the same peers or friends but high school it is the other way around. Come to think that parents can't watch over their kids 24/7. But with a good communication within the family it could be possible to be stopped or eliminate.

I agree with you. It is better that we ask the teens about their drug abuse directly to them. Even though the ratio of students you have mentioned to abuse drugs are less, i fear that it may easily spread among other teens also because at this age teens are prone to temptations and enthusiasm. So it is better we make sure that they don't get addicted to drugs which may lead to negative consequences later.

Regards,

... Okay seriously... no offence, but when i took that test i lied. And so did like all my friends, you guys think that just cause you handed out a piece of paper and told us to write down if we did it we would be honest because it was annonomous??? Thats halarious. Just figured i would let you know your statistics are bogus. Not trying to be rude just stating a REAL fact.

hey em, yeah that happens sometimes and our researchers are aware. what's interesting is that all the major surveys show similar trends in drug abuse across time. i doubt there's a coordinated effort to lie (with the same answers) on all those surveys.....meaning we believe the stats but thanks for the comment.

they have formulas to eliminate the lies to make the stats as close to real as possible

haha when i read this:

"So, to answer your question, not that many kids in high school do drugs"

i laughed a lot!!!! i go to school at [deleted by blog editor] and although we are a small country school the drug problem is bad!!!!!! and the police officer and teachers that works at our school have no idea whatsoever what is going on right under their noses!! seriously, people at football games found this place behind a shed where no one goes and they were smoking and doing drugs and well... it was bad. but of course NO ONE can say ANYTHING about ANYTHING they see otherwise that person will get death threats and get their tires slashed in the parking lot and have to go to homecoming fearing for their life. like one time this girl said something and everyone in the school hated her and she was instantly unpopular. it was sad to watch but she wasnt really that close to me soo i didnt have to deal with it but im sure it sucked!!
so to really answer the question
YES their is a drug problem
and getting students to fess up or rat eachother out is soooo not gonna happen!!
in a perfect world...maybe but in the real world...not a chance!!

is there anyway that the comment i just submitted above would be reported to my school because all the school officials where acting odd and having meetings and then we had a fire drill where they searched the lockers with the police dogs soo...i am wondering if they found out or got a comment about it.

hey good student, fyi I just posted your initial comment so there's no way they could have seen it. also just to clarify we're here to start conversations and answer questions not collect information so no we didn't report your comment to anyone.

no way man

I think that teen/high school drug use is more common than 25%. However, I do not think that "everyone" is doing it, and I think that doing an over-arching study about teen drug use across the country without displaying tables by location, socio-economic status, race, religion, etc. is not that helpful. The study says the surveys ask these questions and take these factors into account but that they cannot do them justice in the report because the results are so varied. It should have been evident through these varied results that an overarching study by age on teen-drug use means only so much. The amount and types of drugs used by students attending inner-city, public, lower-funded schools certainly varies from those used by wealthy, suburbian, private-school attending teens. The types of schools, the types of students attending these schools, and the environments the students go home to when school is over must all be considered in order to get a real sense of how often and why students use drugs.

To combat the teen drug problem, all of these factors have to be taken into account because they affect the access students have and the choices they make. Furthermore, to really combat the teen drug problem, it needs to be recognized that a lot of students begin using drugs before eighth grade and that all of the factors previously mentioned affect this choice as well. In short, to really discuss high school student drug usage, it needs to be examined through the various factors that affect these choices, not just through the analysis of age and drug type.

in my smallschool i know about maybe 15-20 kids that don't do drugs, mainly marijuana. But the rest are always going out partying and smoking at more than half of our football games not more than 40 people show up because every one is out smoking pot.

so as far as i know drug abuse is a huge problem in school

Sadly you guys are looking at drug use in teens too late. I can say from first hand experience that I tried marijuana for the first time when I was 13 and it was a pretty common thing in my Jr. High. I didn't even go to a lower class school, it was one of the best schools in the region and the students came from middle class families in suburbs. As it progressed through my jr high years kids started experimenting with ecstasy and other drugs. This was 10 years ago, I'm sure it's gotten much wrse since then. I'm from Canada btw. I even wrote a 6 part mini series exploring drug use in younger teens on my blog, you can see part 1 at i-crimson.com/dark-side-of-growing-up-part-1/

I'm in the middle of writing a paper on the prevalence of drugs in junior high and high schools. I can tell you that the stats on drug usage by NIDA is laughable. Drug abuse does not know any boundaries, whether school region, socio-economic status, neighborhood, religion etc. Read the book called "Beyond the Yellow Brick Road" by Bob Meehan. He has run the most successful drug abuse programs in the country and he'll tell you your stats are completely off. Actually he'd tell you you were freakin' nuts to think there isn't much of a problem. By the way, the school officials here in Arizona contend that there isn't much of a problem either. Apparently they haven't visited any of the bathrooms where you can see residual coke on the sinks, or buy E in class. Kids lie on these tests, why wouldn't they? Get a grip parents and school administrators. There's a lot more going on than you want to admit, because then you'd really have to figure out how to fix this. Unless we are willing to take a stand a figure out how to really tackle this problem it will become impossible to fix.

Karen, we certainly didn't mean to imply there isn't a "problem" with drug abuse in this country. In fact, we wouldn't even exist if that were the case. The statistics we cite here our from our highly respected Monitoring the Future study, which shows continuing declines in tobacco use and in use of stimulants like methamphetamine. The point of the post was not to say there isn't a problem, but rather to point out that our large epidemiological survey (46,000 teens is a large number for a survey of this kind) shows relatively low use of certain drugs, both licit and illicit, in 8th, 10th, and 12th graders--something we wanted to call attention to, in case teens think it's the "norm" to do drugs. However, we are well aware that this survey only reflects trends, not the reality on the ground in particular places.

Interesting that "Bob Meehan" was brought up. Bob Meehan has officailly 'retired' after so many former attendees of his treatment programs complained about him. [deleted by editor per comment policy] I have met him personally, have known dozens of his former victims, and personally have known people who have worked for his groups. [deleted by editor, per comment policy] BEWARE [deleted by editor, per comment policy]. Just google Bob Meehan, read the transcripts for his 60 minutes interview.

@Karen, @RD--In response to both of these posts, NIDA acknowledges there are many drug abuse treatment programs out there and, sadly, many with dubious claims of success that end up wasting people’s money and, worse, effecting no change for those who are suffering and need help. We caution people in search of good programs to try and evaluate them according to science–based principles, not just on the claims of the people who run them. An evidence–based program is one that is backed up by legitimate evaluations of treatment outcomes. A good program has solid research–based principles at its core, a summary of which NIDA has published and disseminated to programs across the country. We have to do a better job in this country of connecting people to effective programs, a needed cultural change that NIDA is striving to bring about.

I have not been in high school now for five years, but I do have a few observations I would like to make about the findings in this post/report. I would agree with the statistics on students using hard drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, and meth, but would have to disagree with the findings that roughly 25% high schoolers have tried marijuana. Perhaps quite a bit has changed in such a short amount of time, but when I was in high school I would say that marijuana use was much more prevalent than only a quarter of 10th graders having tried it. i do not condone this behavior, but I will say that there were people in my school from those failing their classes to a person on the olympic math team trying marijuana.

I do know now that schools have started random drug testing. I would like to see statistics showing the decreased or increased use of drugs since the implementation of testing in schools. I don't feel necessarily that this will significantly lower the amount of regular drug use in high schools, but if I had to guess, I would think it might discourage the hesitant teens from trying it, for fear they might be caught.

Hi Joe P, NIDA's Monitoring the Future study shows that about 43% of high schoolers try marijuana before they graduate. This is a big survey that can show trends, but may not reflect what's going on everywhere. About testing, NIDA believe that if schools do it, it should be part of broader prevention, intervention, and treatment programs to reduce drug use. So instead of testing students to punish them, positive test results could be used to intervene with students who do not yet have drug problems, through counseling and follow-up testing. For students diagnosed with addiction, parents and a school administrator can refer them to effective drug treatment programs, to begin the recovery process. Thanks for your comment.

WAZZUP JUST NOT DRUGS. TIMMMMMMYYY

smoking is very bad for u so dnt smoke little high skool kides u wont get no more were in lift but in hell so dnt smoke it not good for u

smoking is not good for u so dnt smoke little kides u wont get no were in lift so dnt smoke that missing up your brain

Oh wow. How dumb are these drug researchers? MOST OF THE TEENS WHO SAID THEY HADN'T PROBABLY LIED YOU DUMB [expletive deleted, per guidelines]. Seriously, ALL of the 6th 7th and 8th graders in my school (which there are only 100 students at my school and it's k-8) have smoked pot done cocaine or are addicted to pot. Come on get [expl. deleted] real.

@Just Me--well 100 kids is a pretty small sample. The surveys like the one here is based on more than 40,000 answers from teens. Also, it's anonymous--and confidential--so that reduces the changes of lying and errors in the day--honest!

Well if most kids in High School do drugs then they are not going to be that into school and drugs hurt your brain..So kids in High School don't do drugs

children shouldnt do drugs

yall werid.......i dunt like feel being drug

hey im 17 and i moved from a small town where drugs are not used at all i had never even seen them before or even know what they looked like and when we decided to move to a bigger town i saw many things going on in the high school it was outragous even for me i saw just about everyday someone talking about smoking weed and doing drugs and i've seen kids do drugs in the middle of class like for example Cock, weed, snort pain pills (loratabs and other cabinet drugs) and i cant recall how many times i have seen drugs being sold in the middle of the halways and the middle of class

Hey I was just reading this forum for an essay for english class and I would just like to add my opinion. I'm a grade 10 student at a fairly large high school in canada (3000 students). What I have observed so far in my 2 years here is quite different then what some of you have stated. It is true a lot of students try marijuana before the graduate and some do get addicted. In my high school however, it is waay less then 25%. I know all the smoking pits around the school and at any give time only about 20-35 kids are at a smoking pit at any lunch. I would guess only about 10% of kids at my high school smoke on a regular basis. So drug use is definitely a problem, and more security and prevention is need to stop it. A bigger issue than drugs, in my community at least, is alcohol which I can easily say 75% of kids, including me, drink at every party. An average kid drinks once or twice a week at my school, and When I say 'drinks' I mean excessively not a shot or 2, which most kids do 4-5 times a week.

This is all based on me and my friends observations and experience.
Thanks :)

Hey I was just reading this forum for an essay for english class and I would just like to add my opinion. I'm a grade 10 student at a fairly large high school in canada (3000 students). What I have observed so far in my 2 years here is quite different then what some of you have stated. It is true a lot of students try marijuana before the graduate and some do get addicted. In my high school however, it is waay less then 25%. I know all the smoking pits around the school and at any give time only about 20-35 kids are at a smoking pit at any lunch. I would guess only about 10% of kids at my high school smoke on a regular basis.
So drug use is definitely a problem, and more security and prevention is need to stop it. A bigger issue than drugs, in my community at least, is alcohol which I can easily say 75% of kids, including me, drink at every party. An average kid drinks once or twice a week at my school, and When I say 'drinks' I mean excessively not a shot or 2, which most kids do 4-5 times a week.

Oops sorry for the Double post my :/

I go to a 1700 kid school and like 60% of us smoke pot and all the teachers are oblivious

Wow - what a worry for parents...

I current work at west ridge academy in utah I will to say most teenagers in this generation are either doing it or have tried it. I work with kids that have drug addiction and it seems its normally a peer pressure issue. So yes, high schoolers are doing drugs.

thats bad dont try it trust me

i really don't think there are alot of students. I am a fhresment in shurr and to me i ignore it because what ever your firnds tell you never take drugs it will ruin you 4 ever.

you parents really worry

i am sorry for the people that did that so tell them to stop

There's only a few people who do drugs in my school. Though, we live in an area where a lot of older people smoke, so that does influence other people who are younger than them. I know a few people who are quite young that do drugs and smoke too.

yea its very much true but why we didn't stop this any solution ?????

[commercial link removed, per guidelines]

I go to a school on the border, and drugs are a problem here. A big one. Everyone does at least hash. Even people you wouldn't expect. And everyone is very open about it, because no one rats anyone out. You'll hear conversations about how "that chick was high out of her mind yesterday in chem. She was trippin', it was absolutely hilarious." There's a burrito truck parked near our school at lunch, and everyone goes out there for food, and smokes. You can smell it from a block away. And by the way, that burrito truck is not to health code. If you walk down the street, there's an abortion clinic. Between the abortion clinic and a few houses there are alleys and parking spots for the residents, and people smoke there because it's dark. It's ridiculous. And everyone lies on the surveys, always. I've taken at least three, and everyone I know lies. They don't want to get caught, not even a chance. You can't just ask. The answer is right in front of you. Kids don't want to be civil, they don't want to tell you directly, they don't want your stupid surveys. They want to spit it in your faces when we know you can't do anything about it. I would be willing to bet half the responses on here don't use their real names. Kids like smoking because you don't want us to. It's in our nature. Rebellion is more than a state of mind. It's something that comes natural. Whether or not kids want to call it that, it's what we're doing. But we try to do it smart. There are things we won't do, lines we won't cross. Hash is an "everyone" drug, prescription drugs are for people farther into the drug scene, (riddilin and anti-depressants are popular), and things like meth and heroin are for druggies. A lot of kids won't do anything that isn't marijuana because, "nah, man, that [expletive deleted] will [expletive deleted] you up." Statistics based on how drugs will kill you, and how bad they are for you don't work. We aren't idiots. We have the resources to go out and read how your statistics are all bull[expletive deleted]. Whether or not they are doesn't matter. If an idea is planted in your head, you'll buy into it. It's our way of spitting in your faces. I don't agree with drug use, and I don't agree with the way it's being handled in the school system. I understand the negative consequences, because I've seen them with my own eyes. But someone doing meth can't see the way they really look. So this needs to be fixed. A fancy speech in front of an assembly of pot head kids isn't helping, and neither is surveys. You have to be proactive, stop drugs directly, scare kids. Then write a blog about how "no one uses drugs."

@Nadia Wow, you sound pretty upset. Are you mad that kids are doing drugs? That adults don't know how to talk to teens in a way that reaches them? In fact, adults understand that the teen years can be about Rebellion, but with this blog, we're trying to show how the teen brain is developing and that influences behavior - not always in good ways. To get teens to think before they act - and consider the consequences. Like how does it prove anything that kids would potentially harm themselves to “spit in the faces” of people trying to prevent them from harming themselves? What do you suggest - scaring teens into not taking risks? Scare tactics have already been shown not to work. It’s a hard problem, but I appreciate your comment; it does give some insight from a personal viewpoint.

among students

i think we should just turn our heads and just say no we have a choice to do drugs and to not do drugs.

who ever does drugs are dumd because it will just make your life misrible

STOP DOING DRUGS.................................ITS STUPID AND BBBBBBBBBBBAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

YOU ARE SO RIGHT!!!!!!!

Well..dats pretty obvious dat olmost 35-40% of high skul teens have tried one or da other forms of drugs,may it be alcohol or a smoke.. I read in a smalltown skul in India n hv got 2 know a handful of people of my own age (14-18 yrs) doing drugs [deleted per guidelines].. Bt nw i'd say dat its nt appreciable in any sense.. I dn't kno wht hs been da reason behind uptaking ds habit in me..poor results, hard tyms, bad company, triumphs, complicatd relatnshps etc..or may be da instinct or desire.. Bt it ws certainly WRONG. 'just dnt do it..' howevr ds myt not work or seem inefficient.Afterall its hardly reasonable 4 an addict or a potential drug user 2 ponder ovr dese words bfre getting high.. N highskul is a tym when v have sum different kind of feelings,emotions and pressures dat give rise 2 such issues.

I've seen the challenge that this presents to many students. Thus, as youth speakers, others and I make sure to encourage students during red ribbon week not to get involved with drugs because it could really ruin things for themselves. [commercial link removed, per guidelines]

It not like the days when i went to school that's for sure. The kids are totally different and more wild i work at a [commercial link removed, per guidelines] and unfortuanately i see to many young go before their time because of drugs.

Pages

Add new comment