Risk Factors Associated with Substance Use by Youth
Highlights

The NSDUH Report:  Marijuana Use and Perceived Risk of Use among Adolescents: 2002 to 2007   Based on SAMHSA's annual National Surveys on Drug Use and Health from 2002 to 2007, past month marijuana use among adolescents (i.e., youths aged 12 to 17) generally decreased from 2002 (8.2%) to 2005 (6.8%), and then remained constant between 2005 and 2007.   The percentage of adolescents who perceived great risk from smoking marijuana once a month increased between 2002 (32.4%) and 2003 (34.9%), and then remained relatively stable between 2003 and 2007.   Adolescents who perceived great risk from smoking marijuana once a month were much less likely to have used marijuana in the past month than those who perceived moderate to no risk (1.4% vs. 9.5%).

The NSDUH Report:   Underage Alcohol Use: Where Do Young People Drink?   SAMHSA's 2006 National Survey on Drug Use & Health indicated that more than a fourth of the persons under the legal age for drinking actually drank in the past month; that is, there were 10.8 million current underage drinkers.   Over a half (53.4%) of the current underage alcohol users drank at someone else's home the last time they used alcohol and another 30.3% drank in their own home.   Younger female underage drinkers were more likely than older ones to have had their most recent drink in a car or other vehicle. For example, female underage drinkers aged 16 were eight times more likely to have had their last drank in a car than those aged 20 (12.8% vs. 1.6%).   Among current underage drinkers aged 20, females were almost twice as likely as males to have had their most recent drink in a restaurant, bar, or club (20.0% vs. 10.2%).

The NSDUH Report: Depression and the Initiation of Alcohol and Other Drug Use among Youths Aged 12 to 17   Data from SAMHSA's 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health were used to examine the following in the past year: major depressive episode, initiation of alcohol or illicit drug use, and the association between such new alcohol and/or illicit drug use and major depressive episode. In 2005, 8.8% of youth (about 2.2 million youth) had experienced at least one major depressive episode during the past year.   Rates of major depressive episode varied by gender and age. About 2.7 million youth (15.4% of the youth who had not used alcohol previously) used alcohol for the first time in the past year.   About 1.5 million youth (7.6% of the youth who had not used an illicit drug previously) used at least one illicit drug in the past year. Among youth who had not used alcohol or an illicit drug previously, those with a major depressive episode were about twice as likely to start using alcohol or an illicit drug as youth who had not experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.   Among youth who had not used alcohol previously, 29.2% of those with a major depressive episode initiated alcohol use compared with 14.5% youth who had not experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Among youth who had not used an illicit drug previously, 16.1% of those with a major depressive episode initiated illicit drug use compared with 6.9% youth who had not experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.

The NSDUH Report:  Youth Activities, Substance Use, and Family Income    Based on SAMHSA's 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 92.4% of youths aged 12 to 17 participated in one or more school-based, community-based, church or faith-based, or other such activities during the past year: 27.1% participated in one to three activities, 31.4% participated in four to six activities, and 33.9% participated in seven or more activities in the past year.   Youth in families of lower income were more likely not to participate in any school-based, community-based, church or faith-based or related activities; however, regardless of family income those youth who did participate had lower rates of cigarette, alcohol, or illicit drug use than those who did not participate in such activities.    The greater the number of activities, the lower the rates of past year use of cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit drugs among youth. For example, the rates of illicit drug use were 18.3% for youth who participated in no such activities, 11.9% for those with 1-3 activities, 9.4% for 4-6 activities, and 6.8% for 7 or more youth activities in the past year. 

The NSDUH Report:  Substance Use and Employment among Youths Aged 15 to 17  Based on SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 33.7% of youths aged 15 to 17 were employed either part or fulltime during the past week. Employed youths were more likely than youths who were not employed to have used alcohol (35.9% vs. 24.4%), to have engaged in binge alcohol use (24.6% vs. 15.2%), and to have used an illicit drug (19.4% vs. 15.6%) during the past month. Youths working 20 or more hours per week were more likely than those working 19 or fewer hours per week to have drunk alcohol (41.1% vs. 33.8%), to have binged on alcohol (29.0% vs. 23.1%), and to have used any illicit drug (22.3% vs. 18.5%) during the past month.

The NSDUH Report:  Youth Violence and Illicit Drug Use   Based on SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use & Health, youths aged 12 to 17 who used an illicit drug in the past year were almost twice as likely to have engaged in a violent behavior as those who did not use an illicit drug (49.8% vs. 26.6%). Rates of past year violent behavior were higher among youths aged 13, 14, and 15 than those either younger or older. The likelihood of having engaged in violent behavior increased with the number of drugs used in the past year: 45.6% of youths who used one illicit drug engaged in violent behavior compared to 61.9% of youths who used three or more illicit drugs. 

The NSDUH Report:  Youths' Exposure to Substance Use Prevention Messages, 2003  Based on SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2003, most youths have been exposed to some kind of substance abuse prevention message - - whether having seen or heard an alcohol or drug prevention message or talked with a parent about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, or drug use. About 84% of youths aged 12 to 17 (20.8 million) in 2003 reported having seen or heard an alcohol or drug prevention message from sources such as posters, pamphlets, radio, or TV in the past 12 months. About 59% of the youths (14.6 million) reported having talked with at least one of their parents during the past year about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol or drug use. Youth who had talked with a parent about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, or drug use in the past year were less likely to report past month alcohol use, binge alcohol use, or illicit drug use than youths who had not talked with a parent.

The NSDUH Report:  Mother's Serious Mental Illness and Substance Use among Youths  Based on SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2002 and 2003, an annual average of 18 million women aged 18 or older lived with a biological, foster, step, or adoptive child aged 12 to 17. About 11.9% of mothers (2.1 million) living with youths aged 12 to 17 had serious mental illness during the past year. About 3.2% of the mothers had both a serious mental illness and also reported illicit drug use, binge alcohol use, or heavy alcohol use during the past month. Youths living with a mother who had serious mental illness (SMI) were more likely to have used alcohol or an illicit drug during the past month (26.7%) than youths living with a mother who did not have SMI (18.8%).

The NSDUH Report:  Alcohol Use and Delinquent Behaviors among Youths   Youths who reported heavy alcohol use in the past month were the most likely to have participated in any of the six delinquent behaviors assessed in SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Heavy drinking was defined as drinking five or more alcoholic beverages on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days. All heavy alcohol users are also binge alcohol users, i.e., drank five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days. In 2003, an estimated 9 million (36.1%) youths aged 12 to 17 had engaged in at least one delinquent behavior in the past year. Almost 6 million (23.8%) took part in a serious fight at school or work; 4.5 million (18.1%) took part in a group-against-group fight; 2.1 million (8.3%) attacked someone with the intent to seriously hurt them; 1.1 million (4.5%) stole or tried to steal something worth more than $50; over 900,000 (3.6%) sold illegal drugs; and over 900,000 (3.6%) carried a handgun during the past year.

The NSDUH Report:  Inhalant Use and Delinquent Behaviors among Young Adolescents   SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use & Health found that in 2002 and 2003, an annual average of 718,000 (8.6%) youths aged 12 or 13 had used an inhalant in their lifetime. Youths aged 12 or 13 who used inhalants in their lifetime were more than twice as likely to have been in a serious fight at school or work during the past year than youths their age who had never used inhalants. About 35% of youths aged 12 or 13 who used inhalants in their lifetime also used another illicit drug compared with 7.5% of youths aged 12 or 13 who had never used inhalants in their lifetime.

The NSDUH Report:  Female Youths and Delinquent Behaviors   Based on SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use & Health, in 2003, about 2.4 million girls, aged 12 to 17 reported taking part in one or more serious fights at school or work during the past year. Between 2002 and 2003, the proportion of girls increased who participated in serious fights at school or work (from 16.2% to 20%) and who participated in a group-against-group fight in the past year (from 13.5% to 16.8%). Past year substance use was the most prevalent delinquent behavior among girls aged 12 to 17, with 36.5% (4.5 million) reporting past year alcohol use and 21.9% (2.7 million) reporting past year illicit drug use.

The NSDUH Report:  Risk & Protective Factors for Substance Use Among American Indian or Alaska Native Youths    SAMHSA's 2002/2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health provided data on three categories of risk factors for substance use among American Indian or Alaska Native youths: individual/peers, family, and school. American Indian or Alaska Native youths were more likely than other youths to perceive moderate to no risk associated with substance use, to perceive their parents as not strongly disapproving of their substance use, and to believe that all or most of the students in their school get drunk at least once a week. According to American Indian or Alaska Native youths, their parents were about as likely as those of other youths to talk to their child about dangers of substance use, to let the youth know they had done a good job, to tell their youth that they were proud of something they had done, to make their youth do chores around the house or to limit the amount of time watching TV. However, parents of American Indian or Alaska Native youths were less likely to provide help with school homework or to limit the time out with friends on school nights.

The NSDUH Report:  Underage Drinking in Rural Areas   Based on SAMHSA's 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, rates of current underage drinking among youth aged 12 to 17 was higher in rural than nonrural areas. Current underage drinking among those aged 18 to 20, however, were higher in nonrural areas. Rural youth aged 12 to 17 reported lower levels of perceived risk from alcohol use, less disapproval of alcohol use, and less perceived parental disapproval of underage drinking than those in nonrural areas. Binge drinking (defined as 5 or more drinks on the same occasion at least one day in the past month) was also higher among rural youth age 12 to 17 (4.1%) than nonrural (1.6%) but did not differ by rural status for those aged 18 to 20.

The NSDUH Report: Participation in Youth Activities and Substance Use Among Youths   Based on SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, during 2002, approximately 91% of youths aged 12 to 17, participated in one or more school-based, community-based, church or faith-based, or other activities (e.g., karate lessons) during the past year. Rates of past year use of cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit drugs were lower among youth who participated in such activities than nonparticipants. 

The NSDUH Report:  Graduated Driver Licensing and Drinking Among Young Drivers   Based on SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21% of young drivers aged 15 to 17 were binge drinkers and 6% were heavy drinkers during the combined years of 1999 to 2001. Rates of heavy drinking and binge drinking among young drivers varied by the States' Graduated Driver Licensing ratings, based on the extent to which they restrict driving behavior among young drivers. This report identifies the States categorized from most restrictive to least restrictive according to the 4 category rating scheme developed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Traffic Injury Research Foundation.

The NSDUH Report:  Religious Beliefs and Substance Use Among Youths   In 2002, according to SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 8 million youths (33 percent) aged 12 to 17 attended religious services 25 times or more in the past year.  More than 78 percent of youths (19 million) reported that religious beliefs are a very important part of their lives and 69 percent (17 million) reported that religious beliefs influence how they make decisions.  Youth aged 12 to 17 with higher levels of religiosity were less likely to have used cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit drugs in the past month than youths with lower levels of religiosity. 

The NSDUH Report:  Availability of Illicit Drugs Among Youths  In 2002, males and females aged 12 to 17 were equally likely (55%) to report that obtaining marijuana would be easy. However, female youths were more likely than males to report it would be easy to obtain crack (32% vs. 21%), cocaine (29% vs. 21%), LSD (23% vs. 16%) and heroin (17% vs. 13%).  About 29% of the youths who had been approached by someone selling drugs in the month before the survey had used marijuana in the past month compared with 4% of those not approached by a drug seller. 

The NSDUH Report:  Marijuana Use and Delinquent Behaviors Among Youths   Based on SAMHSA's 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the percentages of youths engaging in delinquent behaviors rose with increasing frequency of marijuana use. In 2002, more than 5 million youths engaged in serious fighting at school or work and almost 4 million took part in a group-against-group fight in the past year. Over half (57%) of those who used marijuana 300 or more days in the past year reported that they also sold illegal drugs.

The NHSDA Report:  School Experiences and Substance Use Among Youths  Students aged 12 to 17 with positive school experiences were less likely to have used alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year than students without these positive school experiences.  The youth with positive school experiences were those who enjoyed going to school, who felt that their assigned schoolwork was meaningful, or who felt that the things they learned in school were going to be important later in life.  Also, the rates of past year alcohol and illicit drug use were lower for youths who had seen or heard drug or alcohol prevention messages at school in the past year than youths who had NOT seen or heard drug or alcohol prevention messages at school. 

The NHSDA Report:  Children Living with Substance Abusing or Substance Dependent Parents  Based on SAMHSA's National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, in 2001 more than 6 million children lived with at least one parent who abused or was dependent on alcohol or an illicit drug during the past year.  This involved about 10 percent of children aged 5 or younger, 8 percent of children aged 6 to 11, and 9 percent of youths aged 12 to 17. 

According to the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use & Health, almost 4 million youths aged 12 to 17 had used marijuana at least once in the past year.  For information on how they obtained marijuana the last time they used, from whom and where, see The NSDUH Report:  How Youths Obtain Marijuana.

SAMHSA's National Household Survey on Drug Abuse in 1999 asked youths whom they would talk to about a serious problem.  Of the estimated 23 million youths aged 12 to 17,  about 16 million youths reported that they would turn to a friend or sibling, 15 million to their mother, and 1 million reported that they would turn to nobody.  See The NHSDA Report:  Youths' Choice of Consultant for Serious Problems as Related to Substance Use.

According to SAMHSA's 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, an estimated 833,000 youths between the ages of 12 and 17 had carried a handgun in the past year.  See The NHSDA Report: Youth Who Carry Handguns.

In 2001, over 3 million persons aged 12 to 17 had smoked cigarettes during the past month.  Although it is illegal in the United States to sell tobacco to under aged youths, in 2001 almost 2 million youths aged 12 to 17 who smoked cigarettes in the past month purchased them personally during the same time period.  See The NHSDA Report:  How Youths Get Cigarettes.

Among youths aged 12 to 17, those aged 14 or 15 reported higher rates than those younger or older for the following violent behaviors:  serious fighting at school or work, group-against-group fights, and attacking others with the intent of seriously hurting them. See The NHSDA Report:  Youth Violence and Substance Use,  2001 Update.

Youths who received grades of D or below last semester were more likely than those with higher grades to have used cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit drugs during the past month.  See The NHSDA Report:   Academic Performance and Youth Substance Use

Rates of past month use of marijuana/hashish, alcohol, or cigarettes were lower among youths who believed their parents would strongly disapprove of their substance use compared with those who felt their parents somewhat disapproved or those who thought their parents would neither approve nor disapprove.  See The NHSDA Report:   Parental Disapproval of Youths' Substance Use.

In 2000,  approximately 3 million youths were at risk for suicide during the past year.   Youths who reported past year alcohol or illicit drug use were more likely than youths who did not use these substances to be at risk for suicide.  See The NHSDA Report:  Substance Use and the Risk of Suicide Among Youths.

In 2000, Hispanic females aged 12 to 17 were at higher risk for suicide than other youths.  Only 32 percent of Hispanic female youths at risk for suicide during the past year, however, received mental health treatment during this same time period.  See The NHSDA Report:  Risk of Suicide Among Hispanic Females Aged 12 to 17.

In 2000, approximately 61 percent of youths aged 12 to 17, or more than 14 million, participated in team sports during the past year.   Rates of past month use of tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs were generally lower among team sports participants than non participants.  However, the rate of past month smokeless tobacco use was higher among team sports participants than non participants.   See The NHSDA Report:  Team Sports Participation and Substance Use Among Youths.

Marijuana use was higher among youth who perceived high rates of such neighborhood characteristics as crime, drug selling, street fights, abandoned buildings, and graffiti than youth perceiving low rates of such neighborhood characteristics.  See  The NHSDA Report:  Neighborhood Characteristics and Youth Marijuana Use.

Youth who reported participating in violence during the past year were more likely to use alcohol and illicit drugs during the past month than youths who did not report past year violence.  See The NHSDA Report:  Youth Violence Linked to Substance Use. 

Females aged 12 to 17 were more likely than their male peers to report that cocaine, crack, LSD, and heroin were fairly or very easy to obtain.  See The NHSDA Report:  Availability of Illicit Drugs to Females Aged 12 to 17.

Youths perceiving great risk from using marijuana once or twice a week were less likely to use substances than youths perceiving moderate, slight, or no risk.  See The NHSDA Report:  Beliefs Among Youths About Risks from Illicit Drug Use.

In 1999, 57 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 agreed that obtaining marijuana would be easy.  See The NHSDA Report:  Obtaining Marijuana Easy for Youths.

This page was last updated on January 30, 2009.