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Article Summary

The Extent of Juvenile Drug Use

Although recent trends in youth drug use have shown the first significant downturn in usage levels, they remain at high levels and it has been shown that the earlier drug use is initiated, the more likely a person is to develop drug problems later in life.

Youth substance abuse can lead to many other problems, including the development of delinquent behavior, anti-social attitudes, and health-related issues. These problems not only affect the child, but can also influence the child's family, community, and ultimately society.

Recent trends in youth drug use have shown a significant downturn in usage levels. However, reducing youth drug use remains a key component of the President's National Drug Control Strategy because studies have demonstrated that the earlier drug use is initiated, the more likely a person is to develop drug problems later in life.

Youth Reporting Past Month Drug Use, 2005

Drug Type Percent
Any illicit drug 9.9%
Marijuana/hashish 6.8
Cocaine 0.6
    Crack 0.1
Heroin 0.1
Hallucinogens 0.8
    LSD 0.1
    PCP 0.1
    Ecstasy 0.3
Inhalants 1.2
Methamphetamine 0.3
Nonmedical use of psychotherapeutic 3.3
Illicit drugs other than marijuana 4.9

According to the 2006 Monitoring the Future study, 20.9% of eighth graders, 36.1% of tenth graders, and 48.2% of twelfth graders reported using any illicit drug within their lifetimes.

Percent of Students Reporting Illicit Drug Use, 2005 to 2006

  8th Grade 10th Grade 12th Grade
2005 2006 2005 2006 2005 2006

Past month

     8.5%

     8.1%

   17.3%

   16.8%

   23.1%

   21.5%

Past year

15.5

14.8

29.8

28.7

38.4

36.5

Lifetime

21.4

20.9

38.2

36.1

50.4

48.2

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 38.4% of high school students surveyed nationwide used marijuana during their lifetime. This is down from 40.2% in 2003 and 42.4% in 2001.

Percent of Students Reporting Drug Use, 2001 to 2005

  2001 2003 2005

Lifetime marijuana

42.4%

40.2%

38.4%

Current marijuana

23.9

22.4

20.2

Lifetime cocaine

9.4

8.7

7.6

Current cocaine

4.2

4.1

3.4

Lifetime inhalant

14.7

12.1

12.4

Current inhalant

4.7

3.9

n/a

Lifetime heroin

3.1

3.3

2.4

Lifetime metham.

9.8

7.6

6.2

Lifetime MDMA

n/a

11.1

6.3

Lifetime Steroid

5.0

6.1

4.0


According to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, youths who participated in activities during the past year were less likely to have used drugs in the past month than youths who did not participate in activities. Among youths aged 12 to 17 who participated in two or more youth activities (for example, band, sports, student government, or dance lessons), 10.4% had used an illicit drug in the past month. Among youths indicating one or no youth activities in the past year, 17.9% reported past month illicit drug use.

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