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School Drug Use: Survey Finds 17 Percent Of High School Students Drink, Smoke, Use Drugs During The School Day

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About 17 percent of American high school students are drinking, smoking or using drugs during the school day, according to a new study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

The back-to-school survey -- the 17th annual of its kind -- relied on telephone interviews with 1,003 students ages 12-17. Of those surveyed, 86 percent indicated they were aware their classmates were abusing substances during the day, and more than half acknowledged there was a place on or near school grounds where students periodically go to use drugs, drink and smoke.

Nearly 44 percent of students told survey-takers they know a classmate who sells drugs. Marijuana was the easiest drug to come by, followed by prescription drugs, cocaine and ecstasy.

This marked the sixth straight year that 60 percent or more of teens reported that their high schools are “drug infected.” However, for the first time in the survey’s history, a majority of private school students reported drugs on campus. The number jumped from 36 percent in 2011, to 54 percent in 2012.

“For millions of American teens, drugs and alcohol, not more advanced education, are what put the ‘high’ in the high schools they attend,” Joseph A. Califano, Jr. Founder and Chairman Emeritus of CASAColumbia and former US Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, said in a statement. “For millions of parents trying to raise drug-free kids, the ‘high’ school years are the most dangerous times their children face, and the ‘high’ schools are a dangerous place to send their kids.”

According to the survey, digital peer pressure appears to have played a significant role in getting teens started on drugs and booze — something that was not the case before the era of social networking sites. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that seeing Facebook pictures of their peers partying with alcohol and marijuana encourages other teens to imitate them.

Compared to teens who have never seen such incriminating images, those who have are four times more likely to have used marijuana, and more than three times likelier to have used alcohol.

Additionally, teens with parents who are more lax about drug and tobacco use are significantly more likely to smoke or drink than peers whose parents express strong condemnation of these substances.

Survey-takers also asked participants if they are ever left home alone overnight without adult supervision. Nearly 30 percent answered in the affirmative, and are about twice as likely to have used alcohol or marijuana and almost three times more likely to have tried tobacco than teens who have never been left alone at night.

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