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Drugs & Health Blog

Real Teens Ask: What Drug is Most Abused by Teens?

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated.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

At NIDA’s Drug Facts Chat Day, we get great questions from teens all over the country about drugs. Here’s one from “hhentze,” representing Junction City High School in Oregon:

"What drug is most often used by teens in the USA?"

Every year since 1975, the Monitoring the Future Study has surveyed teens to better understand their drug use rates, attitudes, and beliefs. Looking over the past 10 years, data show that more and more teens are saying no to drugs, period. They are not even trying them once.

Still, to answer the question, statistics from 2009 (PDF, 362.76KB) show that the drug most often abused by teens in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades is alcohol, followed by marijuana. The third most abused drug varies by grade—for 8th graders, it’s inhalants. For 10th and 12th graders, it’s Vicodin (a prescription medication for pain). Here’s a little more info:

  • Alcohol

So, even though alcohol might be the drug most abused by teens, the good news is that the number of teens who report drinking in the last 30 days has gradually declined by as much as 40% over the past 35 years. You go, Gen Y!

  • Marijuana

Seems marijuana use is slowly creeping upwards after a steady decline that lasted almost 10 years. What’s up with that? The answer may have to do with the fact that young people are seeing marijuana as less risky than before and are more accepting of its use in general.

  • Inhalants and Vicodin

With both inhalants and Vicodin, the rates of abuse among teens are about the same as they have been for the past 2-3 years. That’s pretty positive, especially since the study only recently started looking at trends in prescription drugs.

Your Turn

Carry out your own mini-study and see what drugs friends, relatives, or teachers think are most often abused by teens. Feel free to share what you found out with us in the comments. Spread the word, and help set the record straight.

Update: For the latest findings from the Monitoring the Future survey, check out this blog post.

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.


I mean Coca Cola and all soda best drug for teens!

what a good job!!

I think 4 drugs are drugs kids do the most, [deleted for privacy concerns] 1 is alc 2 weed 3 stuff you breath in like air duster and last 4 is pills ! (: [deleted for privacy concerns]. i think this is the drugs kids most use!

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i will.

i think it's liquors..

i think its probaly pills because there easy to acess

I can say from personal expirience that when I was younger,the most commonly used narcotic was alcohol and marijuana. As I got older,my use grew into a wider variety of substances,and before I knew it,I was using opiods on a daily basis. I was addicted. I think that this article gives everyone a very broad look on what and how these all can be obtainable,and misused. It is a sad sad situation to see anyone,a child especially,falll under the influence of a drug,and not be able to climb out of it,and sadly,they have gotten labled as a dope phiend as many of us have already. but there is help! It's out there,and I am living full proof of that!

i think that it is alchool because almost everyone can get it another ways like from peers and from parents and from just adults.

Started out w pot probly around 15yrs old,occasionally,but slowly increased to everyda,multiple times a day..and would notice I'm irritable if I ran out,couldn't sleep good for a few days.....then I got into rx like xanax and vicodon,tried xtc,shrooms(havnt taken in 6yrs) hooked on xanax,and that was a hard fight to win,I had to move but I did it, I'm 25y/o now and been dealing with painkileer addiction for a couple yrs, wish I never cobtinued to take them....I dnt drink at all......I dnt like stimulants....all I know is I wish I had a dif lifestyle

i think its tobaco, alcohol or matuhana

marijuana *

you need to learn how to sepll

Hi Donna.  Tramadol is a prescription opioid pain medication.  We don't know how many teens use this drug specifically, but according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future study less than 5% of 12 graders have used Vicodin and OxyContin—which are commonly abused opioid medications.  For more information, please check out Drug Facts: Prescription Pain Medications.

No not lol this is real buisness.