Substance Abuse

Prevalence. In 2005, 9.9 percent of adolescents aged 12–17 years reported using illicit drugs in the past month; however, this varied with age. Among youth aged 12–13 years, 3.8 percent reported drug use in the past month, compared to 8.9 percent of those aged 14–15 years and 17.0 percent of those aged 16–17 years. Illicit drug use did not vary widely between Hispanic, non-Hispanic White, and non-Hispanic Black adolescents (ranging from 9.4 to 11.0 percent); however, more than 19 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native adolescents and only 3.3 percent of Asians reported past-month use (data not shown).

In 2005, marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug (6.8 percent), followed by the non-medical use of psychotherapeutic drugs, such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, and stimulants (3.3 percent). Males aged 12–17 years were slightly more likely to use marijuana than females (7.5 versus 6.2 percent).

Alcohol was the most commonly used drug among adolescents, with 16.5 percent reporting past-month use in 2005. Alcohol use was more common among female adolescents than males (17.2 versus 15.9 percent). Illicit drug use among adolescents who smoked cigarettes in the past month (46.7 percent) or were heavy drinkers1 (59.9 percent) was much higher than among adolescents who didn’t smoke (5.5 percent) or drink (5.0 percent). Among those adolescents who both smoked cigarettes and drank heavily in the past month, 70.9 percent also used an illicit drug.

Perception of Risk and Access to Drugs. In 2005, 34.0 percent of adolescents perceived smoking marijuana once a month to be a great risk, while 48.8 percent perceived the same risk regarding cocaine use. Smoking one or more packs of cigarettes a day was considered a great risk by 68.3 percent of adolescents, which represents a significant increase since 2002 (63.1 percent). Drinking five or more drinks on one or two occasions per week was considered to be a great risk by 38.4 percent of adolescents.

While only 15.5 percent of adolescents reported being approached by someone selling drugs in the past month, 51.0 percent reported that marijuana would be fairly or very easy to obtain. The same was reported by 24.9 percent of teens regarding cocaine, 15.7 percent for LSD, and 14.0 percent for heroin.

1 Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 5 or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days.

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