Facts

  • The underdeveloped teen brain makes it likelier that teens will take risks, including using addictive substances that interfere with brain development, impair judgment and heighten their risk of addiction.
  • Three-fourths of high school students (75.6 percent, 10.0 million) have used addictive substances including cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine. Two-thirds (65.1 percent) of high school students have used more than one substance.
  • Alcohol is the preferred addictive substance among high school students: 72.5 percent have drunk alcohol; 46.3 percent have smoked cigarettes; 36.8 percent have used marijuana; 14.8 percent have misused controlled prescription drugs; and 65.1 percent have used more than one substance.
  • Of high school students who have ever smoked a cigarette, had a drink of alcohol or used other drugs, 19.4 percent have a clinical substance use disorder, as do 33.3 percent of current users.
  • Almost half of high school students (46.1 percent, 6.1 million) are current users of these substances,1 in 3 of them meets the medical criteria for addiction.
  • Nine out of 10 Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction¹ started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18.
  • 1 in 4 Americans who began using any addictive substance before age 18 are addicted, compared to 1 in 25 Americans who started using at age 21 or older.
  • American culture actually increases the risk that teens will use addictive substances.
  • Forty-six percent of children under age 18 (34.4 million) live in a household where someone 18 or older is smoking, drinking excessively, misusing prescription drugs or using illegal drugs.
  • Less than half (42.6 percent) of parents list refraining from smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, using marijuana, misusing prescription drugs or using other illicit drugs as one of their top three concerns for their teens; almost 21 percent say that marijuana is a harmless drug.
  • Teens with other challenges such as a family history including a genetic predisposition, a co-occurring health problem, or a victim of trauma are at even higher risk of substance use and addiction.
  • Consequences of teen substance use in addition to addiction include accidents and injuries; unintended pregnancies; medical conditions such as asthma, depression, anxiety, psychosis and impaired brain function; reduced academic performance and educational achievement; criminal involvement; and even death.
  • It can take as few as one or two episodes of smoking to show symptoms of nicotine dependence or one dose of cocaine to die from a heart attack.
  • Immediate costs per year of teen use include an estimated $68 billion associated with underage drinking and $14 billion in substance-related juvenile justice costs.
  • Total costs to federal, state and local governments of substance use, which has its roots in adolescence, are at least $468 billion per year - almost $1,500 for every person in America.

Source: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse’s report: Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem.