Too Many Teens Smoking, Drinking, Using

Drug and tobacco use high among US teens

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D. Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) It’s not exactly a surprise to hear that some teens may drink, smoke or use drugs. But the sheer number of teens engaging in these behaviors may be a bit of a shock.

A recent report collected nationwide data on smoking, drinking and drug use among American teens.

The report showed high rates of daily smoking, drinking and substance abuse, as well as high rates of teens entering substance abuse treatment programs.

"Seek help for your teen's substance abuse."

A recent report from the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, a department within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), outlined the rates of substance use among American adolescents.

For this report, the researchers gathered information from several national surveys and databases on substance use, abuse and treatment programs from 2010 to 2011.

An estimated 25.1 million adolescents, ages 12 to 17, lived in the US in 2011.

Among those adolescents, in the past year:

  • 881,684 smoked cigarettes on a daily basis.
  • 646,702 used marijuana.
  • 457,672 drank alcohol.
  • 38,540 used inhalants (aerosols, nitrous oxide, etc.).
  • 21,775 used hallucinogens.
  • 6,747 used cocaine.
  • 5,602 used heroin.

Teens who drank alcohol reported that on the days they drank, they typically had an average of 4.3 drinks during that session.

Teens who smoked cigarettes reported that on the days they smoked, they smoked an average of 3.9 cigarettes that day.

On an average day, and for the first time:

  • 7,639 teens drank alcohol.
  • 4,594 teens tried an illegal drug.
  • 3,701 teens smoked.
  • 2,151 used prescription painkillers for non-medical use.

The study stated that 10.3 percent of teens tried alcohol, and 6.3 percent had an illegal drug, for the first time in the previous year.

Substance use led many teens to the ER and/or rehabilitation facilities. 

In 2010, a total of 132,850 teens entered an inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment program.

In 2011, a total of 181,005 teens made a trip to the ER for alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications, over-the-counter medications or dietary supplements.

On an average day, marijuana was involved in 165 of those ER visits, alcohol was involved in 110 ER visits and narcotic painkillers were involved in 74 ER visits.

“This data about adolescents sheds new light on how deeply substance use pervades the lives of many young people and their families,” Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA Administrator, said in a press release.

“While other studies indicate that significant progress has been made in lowering the levels of some forms of substance use among adolescents in the past decade, this report shows that far too many young people are still at risk,” Hyde said.

This report was published in August on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. SAMHSA is an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Review Date: 
August 30, 2013
Last Updated:
September 3, 2013