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Survey Finds Drugs #1 Concern


October 1995

A new survey released by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University finds that adolescents say their biggest concern is drugs, in greater numbers than problems such as sex, violence, or parents (National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse, Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, Luntz Research Companies, July 1995; Tamar Lewin, "Adolescents Say Drugs Are Biggest Worry," New York Times, July 18, 1995, p. A8; Andrea K. Walker, "Drug Use Most Serious Issue Facing Teen-agers, Poll Says," Boston Globe, July 18, 1995, p. 5; Rene Sanchez, "Clinton Drug Chief Targets Marijuana," Washington Post, July 18, 1995, p. A3).

The survey, conducted by Luntz Research Companies of Alexandria, Virginia, is the first annual survey of young peoples' attitudes toward the problems they face. This survey polled 400 adolescents and 2,000 adults.

Among the findings in the 95-page report were that 32% of 12-17 year-olds said that drugs were the greatest problem in the lives of people their age. This percentage is more than twice that giving the answer "crime," the next most reported concern.

More than half 10th-graders reported that a friend had used marijuana. Half said they had been offered it themselves. 40 percent of 9th-graders and 63% of 12th-graders said they know a peer with a drinking problem.

Adults polled thought that drugs were easier to obtain than the teenagers did. 82% of adults said that drugs are easy to obtain for teenagers, while 80% of teenagers said marijuana was easy to get and 54% said heroin or cocaine was easy to get. 73% of teenagers said that alcohol was very or somewhat easy to obtain.

Teenagers were also polled about why they and their peers do not use drugs. The greatest percent (25%) reported that they did not want the lifestyle associated with drugs. Adolescents also reported fearing permanent mental or physical damage from drug use (20%) and the fear of being caught (18%).

Most of the adolescents polled associated marijuana use with danger. For example, 75% of teenagers said that marijuana use will lead to falling grades in school and 77% said that marijuana use will cause the user to get in trouble. The report states that the greatest preventative to drug use is "optimism about the future as measured by expectation of economic opportunity" (p. 10).

The majority of children and parents thought that smoking and alcohol use lead to use of marijuana (70%, 56%), and that the use of marijuana leads to hard drug use (81%, 64%).

[For more information or to obtain a copy of this report, contact CASA at 152 West 57th Street, New York, NY, 10019-3310, 212-841-5200.]