Crime News: National Study Shows Reverse in Decade-Long Declines in Teen Abuse of Drugs

Gentlereaders: One of the astounding findings from the last 10 to 20 years is the decrease in criminality across a wide variety of measures from reported crimes to crime surveys to drug use to abused kids to many additional measures.

But the data below is disturbing. A basic tenant of criminology is the connection between drug use and criminal behavior and other measures of criminality such as child abuse and auto fatalities.

Once again, no one is advocating arrests or incarceration for people possessing drugs or using alcohol under age. Based on long-suffering budgets of criminal justice agencies, it’s not a matter of arrests and quite frankly, it’s not a criminal justice issue unless the person involved commits a crime beyond possession.

But the more our society uses drugs and alcohol, the more violent crime, abused children and auto fatalities we have. It’s that direct and it’s that simple.

Crime in America.Net staff.  

National Study Shows Reverse in Decade-Long Declines in Teen Abuse of Drugs and Alcohol

New York, NY, March 2, 2010 – After a decade of consistent declines in teen drug abuse, a new national study released today by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America® and MetLife Foundation points to marked upswings in use of drugs that teens are likely to encounter at parties and in other social situations.

According to the 2009 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, sponsored by MetLife Foundation, the number of teens in grades 9-12 that used alcohol in the past month has grown by 11 percent, (from 35 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2009), past year Ecstasy use shows a 67 percent increase (from 6 percent in 2008 to 10 percent in 2009) and past year marijuana use shows a 19 percent increase (from 32 percent in 2008 to 38 percent in 2009). The PATS data mark a reverse in the remarkable, sustained declines in several drugs of abuse among teens: methamphetamine (meth) was down by over 60 percent and past month alcohol and marijuana use had decreased a full 30 percent over the past decade from 1998-2008.

Underlying these increases are negative shifts in teen attitudes, particularly a growing belief in the benefits and acceptability of drug use and drinking. The percentage of teens agreeing that “being high feels good” increased significantly from 45 percent in 2008 to 51 percent in 2009, while those saying that “friends usually get high at parties” increased from 69 percent to 75 percent over the same time period. The Partnership/ MetLife Foundation Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) also found a significant drop in the number of teens agreeing strongly that they “don’t want to hang around drug users” – from 35 percent in 2008 to 30 percent in 2009.

Parents Not Acting Early Enough, Need to Take Immediate Action

The resurgence in teen drug and alcohol use comes at a time when pro-drug cues in popular culture – in film, television and online – abound, and when funding for federal prevention programs has been declining for several years.

This places an even greater burden on parents. Among the parents surveyed for the PATS study, 20 percent say their child (ages 10-19) has already used drugs or alcohol beyond an “experimental” level. Among parents of teens ages 14-19, that percentage jumps to 31 percent, nearly one third.

Disturbingly, among those parents of teens who have used, nearly half (47 percent) either waited to take action or took no action at all – which studies show put those children at greater risk of continued use and negative consequences.

Because research tells us that kids in grades 7-12 who learn a lot about the dangers of drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to ever use, parents are encouraged to have frequent ongoing conversations with their children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and take early action if they suspect their child is using or might have a problem. Parent visitors to can learn to talk with their kids about drugs and alcohol and take charge of the conversation with their kids.

No Improvement in Teen Abuse of Rx and OTC Medicines, Cigarettes, Inhalants, Steroids, Heroin

According to the PATS survey, teen abuse of prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines has remained stable with about 1 in 5 teens in grades 9-12 (20 percent) or 3.2 million reporting abuse of a prescription medication at least once in their lives, and 1 in 7 teens (15 percent) or 2.4 million teens reporting abuse of a prescription pain reliever in the past year. Eight percent or 1.3 million teens have reported OTC cough medicine abuse in the past year.

PATS shows more than half or 56 percent of teens in grades 9-12 believe Rx drugs are easier to get than illegal drugs. Also, 62 percent believe most teens get Rx drugs from their own family’s medicine cabinets and 63 percent believe Rx drugs are easy to get from their parent’s medicine cabinet, up significantly from 56 percent just last year.

Teen smoking rates have remained stable with 25 percent of teens reporting smoking cigarettes in the past month. Teen inhalant use remains steady at 10 percent for past year use, yet only 66 percent of teens report that “sniffing or huffing things to get high can kill you,” significantly less than the 70 percent of teens who agreed just last year. Inhalant abuse merits careful monitoring – as attitudes towards inhalant abuse weaken, abuse is more likely to increase. Steroid and heroin use among teens remains low at 5 percent for lifetime use.




  1. Not arguing that drug use isn’t a problem in this country, but this “upswing” may not be as dramatic as the study makes it sound, just like the “decade-long decline” probably wasn’t particularly significant in the first place. My response is @:

    • Hi David: Great comment. You’re saying that it’s data over the course of the long-run that’s truely significant. I agree.
      Best, Adam.

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