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Youth Drug Use

In recent years, America has made solid, measurable progress in the fight against drug abuse. Among the best measures of our success in this regard are the results of national surveys that provide statistical information on behaviors and attitudes, including rates of drug use among various user groups.

According to the latest survey in the Monitoring the Future series, the proportion of 10th- and 12th-grade students who use illicit drugs continued to fall in 2005. Similarly, results of the 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that the percentage of high school students who reported using marijuana within the past 30 days has dropped from a peak of 26.7 percent in 1999 to 20.2 percent.

And yet, despite these positive trends, illegal drugs remain a serious threat to our young people. Recent Monitoring the Future results also indicate that nearly a quarter (21 percent) of 8th graders, well over a third (38 percent) of 10th graders, and fully half (50 percent) of 12th graders in America had tried illegal drugs at some point in their lives. Proportions indicating past-year drug use were 16 percent, 30 percent, and 38 percent, respectively, for the same grade levels.

How can a young person's drug use be deterred or treated?

Drug use, abuse, and addiction can lead to so many adverse health and social consequences, that it is important to deter drug use and help users get counseling and treatment. Student drug testing is a powerful form of deterrence. Testing can provide a student with a reason, for themselves and for others, not to use drugs. One of its most important functions is to identify young people who are using drugs. Parents know their children better than anyone else, but they do not necessarily know whether their children are using. Teachers also may not be able to identify drug use, unless a student is frankly impaired. Even pediatricians were shown to deeply underestimate abuse and addiction in youth, without a special questionnaire. Random student drug testing is an objective method for identifying students are for steering those who need help into appropriate counseling.

Survey on Youth Drug Use

Risk factors