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Drug Use Among Youth: No Simple Answers to Guide Prevention

NCJ Number
Date Published
64 pages
The reported study addressed the prevalence of drug and alcohol use among various groups of juveniles, the relationship between drug and alcohol use, risk factors most related to drug and alcohol use by juveniles, Federal programs aimed at drug risk factors, and policies that might constitute a reasonable prevention/intervention strategy.
To determine the current prevalence of drug use among juveniles, the study reviewed research from two recent surveys: the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and the High School Senior Survey. Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth were analyzed to describe the relationship between drug and alcohol use and to determine the characteristics and conditions associated with those who reported using marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol. A content analysis on descriptions of Federal programs listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance identified drug abuse prevention programs and the extent to which they stated risk factors in the criteria for funding. The study was conducted between April 1992 and July 1993. Findings show that although fewer adolescents reported alcohol and illicit drug use in current surveys than in past years, adolescents still reported significant use. This use cut across all socioeconomic and demographic groups. Alcohol remained the drug of choice. Delinquency was significantly associated with the use of marijuana, the use of cocaine, and the use of these drugs over time. Early alcohol use was associated with early use of marijuana and with early cocaine use. Most Federal substance abuse prevention programs target risk factors. The findings on risk factors suggest that further research that separates use from abuse might provide information necessary to develop more targeted prevention approaches. Neither this study nor other risk-factor research to date can provide answers for the optimum mix of prevention programs and strategies. A consensus seems to be emerging among experts that approaches to prevention that are comprehensive, community-based, and collaborative hold the most promise for successful outcomes. Appended study data and a detailed description of methodology