Drug and alcohol abuse are important problems that affect school-age youth at earlier ages than in the past. Young people frequently begin to experiment with alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs during the middle school years, with a smaller number starting during elementary school. By the time students are in high school, rates of substance use are remarkably high. According to national survey data, about one in three twelfth graders reports being drunk or binge drinking (i.e., five or more drinks in a row) in the past thirty days;
The use of illegal drugs is increasing, especially among young teens. The average age of first marijuana use is 14, and alcohol use can start before age 12

Many educators recognize that drug and alcohol abuse among students are significant barriers to the achievement of educational objectives.

The Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program is a comprehensive federal initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education, which is designed to strengthen programs that prevent the use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and violence in and around the nation’s schools.

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Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug among youth in the United States. Current marijuana use decreased from 27% in 1999 to 21% in 2009.

Current cocaine use increased from 2% in 1991 to 4% in 2001 and then decreased from 2001 (4%) to 2009 (3%).

Lifetime inhalant use decreased from 20% in 1995 to 12% in 2003 and then remained steady from 2003 (12%) to 2009 (12%).

Lifetime use of ecstasy among high school students decreased from 11% in 2003 to 7% in 2009.

Lifetime use of methamphetamines was steady from 1999 (9%) to 2001 (10%) and then decreased to 4% in 2009.

Lifetime heroin use did not change from 1999 (2%) to 2009 (2%).

Hallucinogenic drug use decreased from 13% in 2001 to 8% in 2007 and then remained steady from 2007 (8%) to 2009 (8%).

Alcohol is used by more young people in the United States than tobacco or illicit drugs. Current alcohol use among high school students remained steady from 1991 to 1999 and then decreased from 50% in 1999 to 42% in 2009. In 2009, 24% of high school students reported episodic heavy or binge drinking.

Prescription medications most commonly abused by youth include pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and depressants. In 2009, 20% of U.S. high school students had ever taken a prescription drug, such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax, without a doctor’s prescription.

Use of the drug ecstasy (MDMA) has seen a sharp increase among American teenagers at the end of the twentieth century, from 6 percent in 1996 up to 11 percent reporting having tried ecstasy in 2000. Indeed, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, ecstasy was used by more American teenagers than cocaine.