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SAMHSA News - November/December 2007, Volume 15, Number 6

Adolescents Do What Every Day?

By Kristin Blank

Go to school. Spend time at the mall. Listen to music. Text-message friends. Isn't this a typical day for an American adolescent? That's what many of us think.

But something much more serious is going on. According to a recent report from SAMHSA, a young person's average day often includes drinking, smoking, or using illicit drugs.

A Day in the Life of American Adolescents: Substance Use Facts, from SAMHSA's Office of Applied Studies (OAS), provides a startling look at how many youth are abusing illicit drugs and alcohol. The report uses three SAMHSA data sources. (See Data Sources.)

"By breaking down and analyzing the data on a day-to-day basis," said SAMHSA Administrator Terry L. Cline, Ph.D., "we gain fresh perspective on how deeply substance abuse pervades the lives of many young people and their families."

The Numbers

The report reveals that on an average day in 2006, about 1.2 million adolescents age 12 to 17 smoked cigarettes; 631,000 drank alcohol; and 586,000 used marijuana.

In addition, about 49,000 adolescents used inhalants; 27,000 used hallucinogens; 13,000 used cocaine; and 3,800 used heroin.

The OAS report also sheds light on how many youth age 12 to 17 used illegal substances for the first time.

On an average day in 2006, nearly 8,000 adolescents drank alcohol for the first time; 4,300 used an illicit drug for the first time; 4,000 smoked their first cigarette; 3,600 smoked marijuana for the first time; and 2,500 used pain relievers for nonmedical reasons for the first time.


How many teens under age 18 are in treatment on an average day? Using the most recent data (2005), the report shows more than 76,000 youth in outpatient treatment; 10,000 in nonhospital residential treatment; and 1,000 in hospital inpatient treatment.

The report also provides information on the main substances of abuse reported by youth in treatment and the sources of referral for their treatment.

A Day in the Life of American Adolescents: Substance Use Facts is available on SAMHSA's Web site at


Data Sources

SAMHSA's Office of Applied Studies (OAS) used data from three Agency surveys for the "day in the life" report on American adolescents:

For more information on these surveys, visit the OAS Web site at


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