Posted on September 27, 2017 in Blog

When Do Teenagers on Average Start Abusing Drugs?

Across the U.S., significant numbers of teenagers abuse an illicit/illegal drug or a prescription medication. By the time they reach age 13, a substantial percentage of adolescents have already begun to consume drugs at least occasionally. Teen drug abuse facts reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that the risks for involvement continue to rise steadily with age. These figures highlight the need for teens to seek drug abuse treatment before their addictions worsen.

Figures for Eighth-Graders

In partnership with the University of Michigan, the National Institute on Drug Abuse tracks drug/medication intake in American teens through a project called Monitoring the Future (MTF). MTF focuses on adolescents in three grades: eighth grade, 10th grade and 12th grade. The most recent figures from the project, which cover the year 2016, show that 20.6% of all of the nation’s eighth-graders have used/abused a drug or medication at least once in their lives. Almost 7% of all eighth-graders abuse a drug or medication in the typical month.

Figures for 10th-Graders

By the 10th grade, the rates for drug/medication abuse begin to rise substantially. Current figures show that almost 36% of all teenagers in this grade have used/abused a drug or medication at least once in their lifetimes. Almost 16% of all eighth-graders abuse a drug or medication in the typical month.

Figures for 12th-Graders

Teen drug abuse facts consistently show that 12th-graders are by far more likely to use/abuse drugs than their younger counterparts. In fact, nearly half (49.3%) of all adolescents in this grade have consumed an illicit/illegal drug or improperly used a prescription medication at least once. Nearly a quarter (24.4%) of all 12th-graders abuse a drug or medication in the typical month.

Identifying an Average Age

Using the data from Monitoring the Future, we can roughly identify 10th grade as the time of life when the average teenager starts abusing drugs. However, as the figures indicate, some teens begin participating during (or even prior) to eighth grade, while others begin participating in 11th or 12th grade. On the whole, drug abuse among eighth-graders dropped significantly between 2015 and 2016. Abuse among 10th-graders dropped by a smaller, statistically insignificant amount during that same span of time. Between 2015 and 2016, drug abuse among 12th-graders rose by a statistically insignificant amount.

Resources

Monitoring the Future: 2016 Overview – Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use http://www.monitoringthefuture.org//pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2016.pdf

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Monitoring the Future 2016 Survey Results https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/monitoring-future-2016-survey-results

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