High Schoolers Often Use Drugs On Campus, Study Finds

on August 23, 2012 11:47 AM EDT

Teenager
An increasing number of high school students are drinking, smoking and using drugs while at school, according to a new survey conducted by National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. (Photo: Creative Commons)

An increasing number of high school students are drinking, smoking and using drugs while at school, according to a new survey conducted by National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Researchers found that approximately 17 percent of students, 2.8 million, are abusing illicit drugs, cigarettes and alcohol throughout the day, which experts said, unfortunately, is not surprising.

"The findings are alarming but not surprising," Bruce Goldman, director of substance abuse services at Zucker Hillside Hospital, who was not involved in the study, told HealthDay. "We know that teens abuse alcohol, cannabis, prescription medications. It makes sense that they do it at school where they congregate with their peers."

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The survey polled more than 1,000  12-to-17 year olds, and asking them about their own and their peers habits while at school. Half of the respondents said they knew of a place where students could drink and do drugs while at school, and 44 percent admitted to knowing someone at school who sold drugs.

Drug use, both in public and private, is on the rise, with 54 percent of students reporting that drugs are available at their school, compared to 24 percent in 2002.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are playing a role in the widespread use of drugs, according to the report. Approximately 75 percent said seeing pictures of other students doing drugs and partying on those sites made them want to engage in the behavior as well.

"Seeing teens partying with alcohol or marijuana on Facebook and other sites encourages other teens to want to party like that," Emily Feinstein, survey director and senior policy analyst with CASAColumbia, told HealthDay. "Clearly, parents really need to help children navigate that world safely."

Feinstein also said getting to students before they ever try the drugs is the most important step to curbing drug use.

"Preventing addiction is all about preventing teen substance use because the developing brain is more vulnerable," she said. "We really need to look at this as a health care problem rather than a behavioral problem and start screening and intervening early."

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