With students heading back to high school in the next couple of weeks, a troubling new study finds nearly 9 out of 10 know someone who drinks, uses drugs or smokes during the school day.
The 17th annual back-to-school teen drug-use survey from the National Center on Addiction and Substances Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia) reveals that 52 percent of high school students say that there is a place on or near school grounds where students go to get high during the school day. Thirty-six percent say it is easy for students to use drugs, drink or smoke during the school day without getting caught.
"For millions of American teens, drugs and alcohol, not more advanced education, are what put the 'high' in the high schools they attend," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr. Founder and Chairman Emeritus of CASAColumbia and former US Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
"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."
The survey found 44 percent of high schoolers know a student who sells drugs at school. Ninety-one percent said marijuana is most prevalent, followed by prescription drugs at 24 percent.
Many parents seek refuge in private high schools, but the survey reveals a sharp increase in drug use. It found a 50 percent increase over just the past year, from 36 percent in 2011 to 54 percent in 2012.
Social media continues to play a significant part in influencing teen drug and alcohol use. The survey found 75 percent of kids between 12 and 17-years-old said seeing pictures of teens partying online made them more interested in using drugs or alcohol themselves.
"This year's survey reveals a new kind of potent peer pressure-digital peer pressure. Digital peer pressure moves beyond a child's friends and the kids they hang out with. It invades the home and a child's bedroom via the Internet," said Califano. "So parents should be aware of what their children are viewing on social networking sites. If their teens are seeing pictures of other teens partying with marijuana and alcohol, getting drunk or passed out, or using drugs, they may think it looks like fun and want to try it."
The survey says parents can play a big part in influencing teen substance abuse, particularly by expressing strong disapproval. According to the findings, far more young people were likely to approve or partake of illicit activities if they felt their parents would not be extremely upset.
"The take away from this survey for parents is to talk to their children and get engaged in their children's lives. They should ask their children what they're seeing at school and online. It takes a teen to know what's going on in the teen world, but it takes parents to help their children navigate that world," said Emily Feinstein, CASAColumbia's Senior Policy Analyst and the project director of the teen survey.