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Drugs & Health Blog

How Many Teens Actually Smoke, Drink, or Do Drugs?

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of NIDA, announcing the release of the 2011 Monitoring the Future survey results.

Sara Bellum

How Many Teens Actually Smoke, Drink, or Do Drugs?

It’s natural to be curious about your peers—especially when it comes to things that we know can be dangerous, like alcohol and drug use. You’ve probably heard rumors of kids drinking beer at a party or may have a friend who smokes cigarettes.

You may wonder how many teens actually smoke, drink, or do drugs. It’s a question we hear frequently from teens. During NIDA’s 2011 Drug Facts Chat Day, students from the around the country asked NIDA scientists questions such as:

  • “How many teens smoke every year?”
  • “Has the number of people who abuse drugs increased or decreased in the past 5 years? And why?”
  • “What percent of teens has tried drugs?”
  • “How many kids are doing drugs?”

In December 2011, NIDA released the 2011 Monitoring the Future Study, and it seems that more teens are making better decisions when it comes to smoking and alcohol use, but not so much when it comes to using marijuana and abusing prescription drugs.

Here’s a glimpse at the most recent trends in teen drug and alcohol use.

Cigarette and Alcohol Use at Historic Low

Teen smoking has declined in all three grades included in the study—grades 8, 10, and 12. Still, almost 19 percent of 12th graders reported current (past-month) cigarette use.

This decline shows that more teens realize the harm smoking does to your body and are making the decision not to start. Also, teens’ attitudes about smoking have changed. They increasingly prefer to date nonsmokers and believe smoking to be a dirty habit.

Graph modeling cigarette and marijuana use in teens.

Likewise, among nearly all grades, trends over the past 5 years showed significant decreases in alcohol use—including first-time use, occasional use, daily use, and binge drinking. As with smoking, this decline may be the result of more teens understanding the risk of drinking alcohol and disapproving of this behavior.

Marijuana Use Continues To Rise

Unlike cigarettes and alcohol, marijuana use is increasing. Among 12th graders, 36.4 percent reported using marijuana at least once in the past year, up from 31.5 percent 5 years ago. This accompanies a decrease in the number of 12th graders who perceive that smoking marijuana is harmful. For example, only 22.7 percent of high school seniors saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally, compared to 25.9 percent 5 years ago.

Of course, we know the risks: marijuana can affect memory, judgment, and perception, and it can harm a teen’s developing brain.

Prescription Drug Abuse Remains Steady

Prescription drug abuse hasn’t changed much since 2010. Abuse of the opioid painkiller Vicodin and the nonmedical use of Adderall and Ritalin, stimulants meant to treat ADHD, remained about the same as last year. Also, the abuse of the opioid painkiller OxyContin remained steady for the past 5 years across all 3 grades surveyed.

To drive this trend downward, NIDA recently launched PEERx, a prescription drug abuse awareness campaign that gives teens science-based information about the harmful effects of prescription drug abuse on the brain and body.

When teens understand the health risks of abusing drugs, they do it less. So, tell us, how would you convince your peers that marijuana use and prescription drug abuse are harmful?

These estimates come from the Monitoring the Future Study's national surveys of approximately 47,000 students in about 400 secondary schools each year. The survey was conducted in classrooms earlier this year. View all of the 2011 data.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Advices coming from your parents are very important factor to avoid this kind of habit. It's always a matter of guidance and support from your family. We have to talk to our children and discuss these issues that they may encounter. Showing them how much you really care will really help them to have a better future.

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i think that its is bad for you and why would you what to do it in the first place.
Well I smoked weed for three years every day to escape my sh*ty life, And its not the worst thing you can do, there is ALLOT worst the pot. the worst part is you lose your drive to do anything and that's not really the drug, but the people that you hang out with that smoke that much.
i agree. pot isnt that bad. cocane is bad. weed, not so much. im 17
It is BAD! It is also ILLEGAL and you could get arrested!
its not actually that bad.... if cigarettes are legal than pot should be also.
i agree
Just don't smoke
Tobacco cigarettes kill millions a year because of cancer, and weed has killed none. Weed is also subject to cure many thing's, and is also very helpful for people with PTSD. So tell me, why are cigarettes legal, and why is weed illegal? The downsides of weed are much less life affecting than tobacco. Just advice from a well informed person.
i strongly agree with you and im just a 8th grader who does not believe in smoking marijuana
I've tried weed I'm in 9th grade it's not addictive. I havnt done it since therefore it's not that bad
im in 8th grade and trust me middle schoolers do way more stuff than smoking weed
James , I'm also in 9th grade, well 10th grade now. Look everyone is all different so just because you tried it and didn't get addicted to it doesnt mean everyone else will.
Weed is NOT addictive. People just smoke it a lot because guess what? It happens that people like to feel good, and weed happens to do, just that.
I was in a rehab with about 43 addicts that started smoking weed and synthetics from freshman yr to college. They were all addicts. All arrested for violations. If it's illegal. It's for a reason. Alcohol is legal but is the most lethal killer of all drugs. You don't start taking ANYTHING thinking you can't live without it!! You wake up 4-5 yrs later thinking a few hits from your bong will only mellow you out. Then it becomes more. Truth!!!!
"The government says it's bad so I can't do it!!!!"
Well no one has died from smoking weed, Only by doing stupid things while high maybe, but not just smoking it. More people died from alcohol and cigarettes and still they're legal. But somehow not weed. Funny isn't it love.
Your comment is counter-intuitive. Being high does kill people, yes, and that is directly as a result of smoking marijuana. Don't say that it's their fault for accidentally killing themselves, being high impairs your judgement too much.
it is only bad in the eyes of the law, but health wise marijuana wont kill you like other drugs.
all drugs are bad!!!!!!!!!!!
i agree, no drug should be legal
I agree, no recreational use of drugs should be legal... for Oregon and Washington to legalize such use of marijuana will only plague future generations with drug abuse.
It isn't legal in all those areas that people say it is, the law is just not enforced by the police. You are breaking a federal law when you smoke, sell, consume, or posses marijuana. If the government really wanted to they could force it but they choose not to since it does bring in such high tax revenue.
really ok good luck with life and when that happens good luck trying to live I agree, pot or weed whatever they call it should not be illegal because it doesn't really do anything but when you overdose from some drug and your on the news remember what the people told you
except for weed
Not even im 12 & im turning 13 & im talking about doing drugs this week
Caffeine is a drug
No it's not
caffine is not a drug
caffeine is a drug
Caffeine is a drug and its also addictive.Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant of the methylxanthine class. It is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug. Unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world.
So does that mean that you do drugs I'm only 13 and I'm wondering how bad is it to do drugs I have not done any drugs or alcohol In my life but I hear people at my school that do meth or smoke weed but I was just wondering if you have done drugs and is it a bad choice to make. I hope you reply thank you

Drugs aren't good for teens' brains or physical health. Meth is highly addictive and can cause irregular heartbeat, higher body temperatures and high blood pressure. It can also cause problems with your emotions, like anxiety, or cause psychosis, which makes you see things that aren't there. Fortunately, not many teens use it. In a survey, less than 2 percent of high school seniors said they had ever tried it. You can read more about meth's effects here: 

Marijuana is more common, but it's still not good for developing teens' brains. The chemicals in marijuana affect the areas of the brian associated with learning, coordination and judgment, on it can hurt teens' performance in school or in sports, or make them more likely to take risks. You can read more about marijuana's effects here:

dwoent dwoo dwugs, zey r bed 4 u, skae en sko0l kedz. But seriously dont' do drugs. Don't even consider it. Most drugs will ruin your life. :)
Pot is just another word for weed...
Obviously it is bad because you're having some spelling issues there bud. I'm 15
Why are you smoking didn't you read the site?
You guys drive sh**** because of damned drugs! So many teens have died while driving because of drugs. I feel ashamed of our generation!
I know, right?
i agree
Maybe instead of getting high you should've gone to school and paid attention and know that a lot is two words... Not one with two L's.... In fact your sentence should be.. "Well I smoked weed for three years every day to escape my sh*tty life, And its not the worst thing you can do, there is a lot more stuff worse than pot. The worst part is you lose your drive to do anything and that's not really the drug, but the people that you hang out with that smoke that much."
do you even grammer bro
err day bro
You spelled a lot wrong. :>
Seriously doing Drugs isn't a way of life. You are given a life for a reason and you only have one you should spend it wisely when you can. Drugs aren't for showing off and looking cool its for killing yourself so don't think about using them because they can seriously harm you and your health. Do not listen to those ppl who say drugs are cool.
So from your statement we can all infer you are eleven. I haven't met anyone who uses drugs who has said that the only reason they use any form of drug is to kill themselves. Recreational drugs are called recreational because they are used to improve quality of life or escape reality or reduce stress or any other number of reasons. I have never met a pothead or any other user of drugs who has forced me to do drugs or said that it was cool.
english please...
well theres lots of reasons and it isent that bad, itss not like you take a hit and your rolling in the street talking about marshins or something. marijuana hasits perks thats my it can be perscribed and is leggle in many states and provinces you could do worse stuff such as DRINKING which is leggle almost everywere
drugs are bad! dont do them