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So just how many kids are doing drugs, and what types of drugs are they using? The following statistics on child & teen drug use will give you some idea of the scope of the problem. Just keep in mind that these statistics are likely to underestimate the actual prevalence of substance use among youth, since young people typically under-report bad behavior, even in anonymous surveys.

General statistics on teen drug & alcohol use

  1. At least 53% of kids will have tried an illicit drug by the time they finish high school, and 75% will have consumed alcohol. Nearly half (47% of kids) will have experience drinking by eighth grade. (Johnston et al., 2003)

  1. A SAMHSA survey during the 2008-09 school year found that 9.7% of teens ages 12 to 17 had used an illegal drug in the past month, down from 11.4% in 2002-2003. (Shorman, 2011)

  1. Contrary to popular belief, African-American youth typically have lower rates of alcohol, cigarette, and illicit drug use than do white kids. The 3 exceptions to this rule are marijuana use, which has surged among African-Americans in recent years, and is more common among Black students in 8th and 10th grade. Crack use has generally been higher among black than white students, and a surge in bath salts puts them slightly higher in all 3 grades than their white counterparts. (Johnston et al., 2017) Overall, however, black and Hispanic teens use fewer substances than white kids.

Trends in teen substance abuse

  1. The good news is that drug use among teens has broadly declined over the past few years. (Johnston et al., 2017) However, this has more to do with overall patterns in teen behavior (more interaction via the Internet and fewer teens hanging out in real life) than it does any substantial change in attitudes or addictive behaviors. (Twenge, 2017)

  1. Use of bath salts, cough & cold medicines, and use of heroin with a needle all rose in 2016, as other drug use typically declined or stayed the same. (Johnston et al., 2017)

Statistics on the types of drugs kids are using

  1. In 2011, 63.5% of 12th graders in the U.S. used alcohol, 36.4% used marijuana, and 5.3% used ecstasy. (Sanders, 2012)

  1. During 2002, around 41% of twelfth-graders had used an illicit drug, which included 36% using marijuana, 5% cocaine, and 3% LSD. (Johnston et al., 2002)

  1. 2.6% of 8th graders abused cough & cold medicines to get high in 2016, an increase over the previous year. (Johnston et al., 2017)

  1. In 2016, use of synthetic marijuana (aka spice) was 2.7% among 8th graders, 3.3% among 10th graders, and 3.5% among 12th graders; down from 4.4%, 8.8%, and 11.4%, respectively, in 2012. (ibid)

  1. 0.9% of 8th-graders used bath salts in 2016, an increase over 0.5% the year before, and one of the few drugs to be rising in use as many others are falling. (ibid)

  1. In 2016, 0.8% of 8th graders, 1.3% of 10th graders, and 2.3% of 12th graders used cocaine. (Johnston et al., 2017)

  1. Ketamine (Special-K) was used by 2% of high school seniors in 2002. (Johnston et al., 2003) In 2011, it was used by 0.8%, 1.2% and 1.7% of 8th, 10th and 12th graders, respectively. (Johnston et al., 2017)

  1. In 2016, 0.5%, 0.9% and 1.3% of boys in grades 8, 10, and 12 used steroids, along with 0.5%, 0.5% and 0.6% of girls, respectively. (ibid)

  1. In 2016, heroin use among teens was at its lowest levels since 1991, with 0.3% of teens reporting using heroin in all 3 grades…8th, 10th & 12th. (ibid) Whether this drop represents actual abstinence or decreased reporting due to increased stigma is hard to say; probably a little of both.

  1. In 2016, 1.1% of 12th graders had used the club drug Rohypnol, 0.9% had used GHB, and 1.2% had used ketamine. Among 8th & 10th graders, 0.5% in each grade had used Rohypnol. (Johnston et al., 2017)

Ecstasy use among teens

  1. 9.2% of high school seniors used ecstasy in 2001, an increase over the 3.6% who used it just 3 years earlier. Among 10th graders this was 6.2%, and 3.5% for 8th graders. (Johnston et al., 2003)

  1. By 2014 reported use had dropped substantially to 3.6% of 12th graders, 2.3% of 10th graders and 0.9% of 8th graders. (Johnston et al., 2017)

Amphetamine use among teens

  1. Approximately 5.5% of high school seniors in the U.S. regularly use amphetamines, and 7% will do so in the course of a year. Among adolescents overall, 3-5% use amphetamines, (Johnston et al., 2003)

  1. IN 2016, reported rates of methamphetamine use were 0.4% among 8th and 10th graders and 0.6% among 12th graders, the lowest levels ever reported. For comparison, in 1999 meth use was 3.2%, 4.6% and 4.7% respectively. (Johnston et al., 2017) Crystal meth, however, had surged slightly in 2016, to 0.8% of high school seniors. (ibid)

Hallucinogenic use among teens

  1. In 1979, 7% of U.S. high school seniors had used PCP. By 2002 this had fallen to 1.1%. (Johnston et al., 2003)

  1. In 2002, 2.5% of 8th graders had used LSD, and 4.1% had used any type of hallucinogen. Among 10th-graders it was 5% and 7.8%, and 12th-graders 8.4% and 12%. Usage within the past month for 8th graders was 0.7% for LSD and 1.2% for all hallucinogens. Among 10th graders it was 0.7 and 1.6%, and 12th graders 0.7 and 2.3%. These rates are much lower than what they were in the 1960s and 1970s. (Hanson et al., 2004, p. 343)

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