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Most teens surveyed say classmates drink, use drugs on campus

August 22, 2012|By Mary MacVean
  • Sixty percent of high school students and 32% of middle school students say students keep or sell drugs on campus, according to a recent survey.
Sixty percent of high school students and 32% of middle school students… (Warren County Drug Task…)

If one of parents’ biggest worries is that their teenagers are exposed to drugs and alcohol at school, their fears are justified: Eighty-six percent of high school students say their classmates are smoking, drinking or using drugs during the school day, according to a national survey.

The 17thannual back-to-school survey by the National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University shows that “tobacco, alcohol and drug use are pervasive and relentless fixtures in the teen world,” Joseph A. Califano, founder and chairman of the center, writes in a statement accompanying the survey results.

He called the results “profoundly disturbing.” Some of the reasons:

--Students estimate that 17% of their classmates are drinking, using drugs or smoking during the school day. And about half say there’s a place on or near campus where this happens.

--Teens estimated that 47% of classmates drink alcohol; 40% use drugs; 30% smoke cigarettes.

--Sixty percent of high school students and 32% of middle school students say students keep or sell drugs on campus. (In private high schools, 54% said this happens.) The high school figure has been at least 60% in seven of the last eight years.

--Forty-four percent say they know someone who sells drugs at school. And 91% say they know someone who sells marijuana.

--Forty-five percent of teenagers say they’ve seen pictures on Facebook or other social media of kids getting drunk, passed out or using drugs. Nearly half of those kids say it seems like the kids pictured are having a good time. And while 6% of the teens who say they’ve never seen such pictures have used marijuana, 25% of those who have seen them have used marijuana. The numbers for alcohol are 13% versus 43%.

--About half of high school students say they have at least one friend who uses illegal drugs like acid, ecstasy, meth, cocaine or heroin. About a third say a friend abuses prescription orover-the-counter drugs.

On the other hand, nearly 90% of teens said they would never or not likely try drugs in the future.

For kids who get caught, nearly all teens said their school would mete out serious punishment, and 81% said the school would offer counseling or other help for a student with a problem.

Factors in teen substance abuse, according to the survey, are parents who “would be extremely upset” to learn their kids had used alcohol, drugs or tobacco; teens who are left unsupervised overnight; teens who feel “high” academic stress.

Seventy percent of kids say none in their close circle of friends smokes cigarettes. If the students are on the hook for their behavior, their parents are not off the hook. Califano writes: “And it’s inexcusable that parents, who raise hell and refuse to send their children to school if there’s asbestos in the classroom ceiling, or a serious outbreak of flu, nevertheless send their kids day after day to schools where it is so easy for those kids to buy and use drugs.”

The 2012 survey focused on teenagers’ school experiences. It was conducted by telephone by QEV Analytics Ltd. in April and May and included 493 boys and 510 girls ages 12 to 17.

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