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Demographics
In this section, we offer selected statistics regarding U.S. youth, together with a few statistics focused on New York State. Links and endnotes will connect you to rich resources for further information. These pages are updated periodically.

Demographics: Substance Use

Use of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco among U.S. high school students is widespread [1]. However, students' use of illegal drugs has largely declined since the mid- to late-1990s [2], as has use of alcohol [3] and tobacco [4]. Substance-Free for Past Month

Substance-Free

The percentage of youth who are not frequently using drugs has been increasing. In 2014, 54% of high school seniors and 86% of eighth graders reported being substance-free for the previous month (did not use cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit drugs). Among students, black seniors were more likely than white seniors to have abstained for the previous month. Plans for the future make a difference: students who planned to attend a four-year college were less likely to have used substances in all three categories (cigarettes, alcohol, and illicit drugs) in the previous month [5].

Cigarettes

In 2015, 32% of high school students reported having tried cigarettes (down from 41% the previous year), while 3% reported frequent smoking. Eleven percent of students smoke at least occasionally (smoked cigarettes on at least one day during the 30 days before the survey), and 45% of this group had tried to quit smoking at some time during the last year [1]. Use of e-cigarettes/vaporizers over the past 30 days is reported by more teens than use of tobacco cigarettes (10% 8th graders, 14% 10th graders, and 16% 12th graders) [6]. (Note that e-cigarettes contain nicotine derived from tobacco.)

Alcohol

While drinking continues to be widespread, rates of lifetime, annual, and past 30-day use of alcohol reached their lowest recorded levels for 10th and 12th graders in 2015 [6]. In 2015, one in three students reported having had at least one drink during the 30 days before the survey [1]. Eighteen percent of students had engaged in binge drinking (5 or more drinks in a row in the previous 30 days) [1]. Young adults in their late teens and early twenties have the highest rates of binge drinking, and full-time college students are more likely to binge on alcohol than are youth age 18-22 who are not full-time students [7].

Since 1991, driving while drunk has declined among youth by over half [8]. However, in 2015, 8% of high school students who drive reported having driven while drinking at least once in the last 30 days, and 20% of students rode in a car driven by someone who had been drinking [1]. Young adults age 21-25 have the highest risk of driving under the influence of alcohol [7].

Marijuana

For many years, marijuana has been the most widely-used illegal drug among adolescents [6]. Over one in five students (22%) reported having used marijuana during the month before completing the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey [1]. One percent of 8th grade students use marijuana daily; by 12th grade, 6% are using daily [6].

Other Substances

Results from the 2015 Monitoring the Future study indicate that use of many substances is declining, while others are holding steady. Generally, increases in drug use were not seen [6]. As street drugs have declined, abuse of prescription drugs has tended to increase (though declines were seen in 2015); youth may perceive these to be more safe [6]. According to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, figures for lifetime use (percentage of high school students who have used a particular substance one or more times at some point in their lives) are: prescription drugs taken without a prescription (17%), inhalants (7%), hallucinogenics (6%), ecstasy/MDMA (5%), cocaine (5%), methamphetamine (3%), steroids without a prescription (3%), and heroin (2%) [1].

Drug-Related Emergencies

On average there were approximately 777 drug-related visits to emergency departments among teens age 12-17 in 2011. The majority of these involved alcohol either alone (110) or combined with other drugs (87), followed by marijuana (165) and painkillers (74) [9].

Substance Use Disorder

Five percent of teens age 12-17 [10] and nearly 7% of young adults (age 18-25) suffer from substance use disorder (SUD) [11]. Three percent of teens age 16-17 had a major depressive episode co-occurring with SUD in the past year, and just over half did not receive treatment [11].

Endnotes

[1]   Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., et al. (2016, June 10). Youth risk behavior surveillance - United States, 2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(6). Retrieved September 10, 2016, from
cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/ss/ss6506a1.htm
 
[2]   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Trends in the prevalence of marijuana, cocaine, and other illegal drug use. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from
cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/trends/2015_us_drug_trend_yrbs
.pdf

 
[3]   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Trends in the prevalence of alcohol use. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from
cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/trends/2015_us_alcohol_trend_y
rbs.pdf

 
[4]   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Trends in the prevalence of tobacco use. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from
cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/trends/2015_us_tobacco_trend_y
rbs.pdf

 
[5]   Child Trends Databank. (2015, December). Substance-free youth. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from
childtrends.org/?indicators=substance-free-youth
 
[6]   Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Miech, R. A., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2016). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use: 1975-2015: Overview, key findings on adolescent drug use. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from
monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2015.pdf
 
[7]   Neinstein, L. (2013). The new adolescents: An analysis of health conditions, behaviors, risks, and access to services among emerging young adults. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from
usc.edu/student-affairs/Health_Center/thenewadolescents/doc/TheNe
wAdolescents_Final_Locked.pdf

 
[8]   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012, October). Teen drinking and driving. CDC Vital Signs. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from
www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/TeenDrinkingAndDriving/
 
[9]   Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (August 29, 2013). The CBHSQ Report: A day in the life of American adolescents: Substance use facts update. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from
samhsa.gov/data/2K13/CBHSQ128/sr128-typical-day-adolescents-2013.
htm

 
[10]   Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). Age- and gender-based populations. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from
samhsa.gov/specific-populations/age-gender-based
 
[11]   Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (May 6, 2014). The CBHSQ Report: Serious mental health challenges among older adolescents and young adults. September 10, 2016, from
samhsa.gov/data/2K14/CBHSQ173/sr173-mh-challenges-young-adults-20
14.htm
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