U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Substance Abuse

In 2007, 9.5 percent of adolescents aged 12- 17 years reported using illicit drugs in the past month. Illicit drug use varied by age, with 3.3 percent of youth aged 12-13 years reporting use in the past month, compared to 8.9 percent of youth aged 14-15 years and 16.0 percent of youth aged 16-17 years. There was also variation by race/ethnicity, with rates ranging from 6.0 percent among Asian youth to 18.7 percent1 among American Indian/Alaska Native youth. Rates for non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic youth were 10.2 percent, 9.4 percent, and 8.1 percent, respectively (data not shown).

Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug among adolescents in 2007 (6.7 percent), followed by non-medical use of prescription-type psychotherapeutics, such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, and stimulants (3.3 percent). Adolescent males were slightly more likely than their female counterparts to report using illicit drugs in the past month (10.0 versus 9.1 percent, respectively). Illicit drug use is associated with other health risk behaviors. In 2007, 47.3 percent of adolescents who reported cigarette use in the past month also reported illicit drug use, compared to only 5.4 percent of adolescents who did not report smoking. Adolescents who reported heavy2 alcohol use in the past month were also more likely to use illicit drugs than adolescents who did not report alcohol use (60.1 versus 5.0 percent, respectively; data not shown).

Alcohol continues to be the most commonly used drug among adolescents, with 15.9 percent reporting past-month use in 2007. There was little difference in alcohol use among males and females (15.9 and 16.0 percent, respectively). Greater variation was evident by race, with rates ranging from 8.1 percent among Asian youth to 20.5 percent1 among American Indian/Alaska Native youth; the rate for non-Hispanic White youth was 18.2 percent.

In 2007, 34.5 percent of adolescents perceived smoking marijuana once a month to be a great risk, while 49.6 percent perceived the same level of risk with cocaine use. Smoking one or more packs of cigarettes a day was considered a great risk by 68.8 percent of youth. Drinking five or more drinks once or twice per week was considered a great risk by 39.4 percent of adolescents.

While fewer than 15 percent of adolescents reported being approached by someone selling drugs in the past month, 49.1 percent reported that marijuana would be fairly or very easy to obtain; the same was reported by 25.3 percent of youth regarding crack, 24.5 percent regarding cocaine, 14.4 percent regarding LSD, and 14.1 percent regarding heroin (data not shown).

1 2006; no estimate was reported for 2007 due to low precision.

2 Heavy drinking is defined as drinking 5 or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days.

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