The Scope of the Problem

Alcohol and substance abuse are a growing problem for young people in almost every country, with millions of teenagers and young adults worldwide turning to drugs and alcohol each year. This problem in the United States, especially as a result of the COVID pandemic, is at a crisis level and one that impacts our young people’s mental and emotional health, as well as their social, personal, and academic lives. The easy availability of drugs and alcohol, as well as the societal beliefs that drinking and drug use is a rite of passage, have facilitated the spread of this problem.

Statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) show that approximately 50% of high school students have used some kind of illicit substance by the time they graduate. Across the United States, it is estimated that 9% of all adolescents and teenagers aged 12-17 report using one or more illicit drugs in any given month. Additionally, 14% report using e-cigarettes. Statistics from 2019 indicate that approximately 53% of high school students have consumed alcohol, with 40% of those reporting the use of alcohol in any given month. Possibly more frightening is the fact that in any given year, between 17% and 25% of teenagers report they have knowingly ridden in a car with a drunk driver. Every year, over 3,500 young people under the age of 21 die due to alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, alcohol poisoning, drowning and suicide. That amounts to over 210,000 years of potential life lost among our young adults.

Prevalence of Binge Drinking, Tobacco Use, Marijuana Use, and Other Drug Use

drug statistical graph
Graph Source: The following information illustrates just how prevalent alcohol and drug use is among the country’s adolescents and teenagers, and why doing everything we can to help our children grow up alcohol and drug free is so critical to their future well-being. Prevalence of Alcohol Consumption in 12th Graders
  • 62.0% of 12th graders report having used alcohol at some point during the past year
  • 35.3% of 12th graders report drinking alcohol within the last 30 days.
  • 37.7% of 12th graders report being drunk at least once in the last year.
  • 17.2% of 12th graders report engaging in binge drinking (having 5 or more drinks in a short period of time) in the last two weeks.
Prevalence of Substance Use in 12th Graders
  • 34.9% of 12th graders report using marijuana in the last year.
  • 23.6% of 12th graders report using illicit drugs in the last year.
  • 21.3% of 12th graders report using marijuana in the last 30 days.
  • 7.7% of 12th graders report non-medical use of amphetamines in the last year.
  • 7.5% of 12th graders report non-medical use of Adderall in the last year.2
  • By 12th grade, almost 50% of all teenagers have tried illegal drugs.
Sources: In 2019, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey provided further evidence of the severity and dangers of underage drinking. The survey found that, among high school students during a 30-day period: While recent statistics have shown a leveling off or even a slight drop in teenage alcohol and drug use, mortality rates have increased, indicating that while teen drug use may not be increasing, it is becoming more dangerous. For example, for adolescents aged 14 to 18, there were 518 overdose deaths in 2010, with the overdose death rate in this population remaining stable through 2019. However, adolescent overdose deaths increased to 954 in 2020 and further increased to 1,146 in 2021. Overall, adolescent overdose deaths increased 94% between 2019 and 2020 and increased 20.05% from 2020 to 2021. Adolescent overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased from 253 in 2019 to 680 in 2020 and 884 in 2021. In 2021 fentanyl was involved in 77.14% of adolescent overdose deaths, highlighting the extreme lethal nature of this drug. Alcohol and drug abuse has been a challenge to the social fabric of our communities and the well-being of our adolescents and teenagers for decades. In recent years, the impact of social media, the after-effects of the COVID pandemic, and the ongoing stresses and pressures our younger population face have only increased the need to provide them with the skills and knowledge to remain alcohol and drug free, or for those struggling with alcohol or drug use, the treatment programs and services that can help them recover.