National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse 1998 | CASAColumbia

Back to School 1998 – National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse IV: Teens, Teachers and Principals

Back to School 1998 – National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse IV: Teens, Teachers and Principals

Published: September 1998

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This survey aims to identify the situations, individual and family characteristics, and social factors that are associated with teen drug abuse and addiction. Its primary purpose is to track attitudes of teens and those, like parents, who have the greatest influence on whether teens will smoke, drink, get drunk, use illegal drugs or abuse prescription drugs.

The survey’s insights reveal various teen drug abuse facts and teen drug abuse statistics that may help parents understand what they can do to prevent this problem. These include the differences in why boys and girls abuse substances and how they exhibit such abuse; the importance of drug-free schools; how teens obtain drugs; the relevance of their friends’ substance use, parties and dating practices; the differences in parental and teen perceptions, the relationship of stress, boredom and spending money to teen drug abuse; and the importance of family dinners, parental engagement and religious involvement in discouraging substance abuse.


On behalf of CASAColumbia, Luntz Research Companies conducted a telephone-based survey with 345 middle school teachers, 478 high school teachers, 822 principals of middle or high schools and 1,000 teens, ages 12 to 17.


This survey found the transition from age 12 to 13 was the most critical turning point in the lives of America’s children. It was the year when their access and exposure to illegal drugs skyrocketed, while parental involvement in their lives dramatically diminished.

The survey also revealed other findings including that by age 13, teenagers knew other students who used and sold pot, acid, cocaine or heroin; learned where to buy these drugs and from whom to buy them; and significantly changed their attitudes about reporting student drug users and sellers and communicating openly with their parents. At the same time, 47% of 13-year-olds said their parents had never seriously discussed the dangers of illegal drugs with them.

According to surveyed teens, the drug problem in American high schools is getting worse. For the fourth straight year, both middle and high school students said that drugs were their biggest concern. For the third straight year, the number of high school teens who reported that drugs were used, sold and kept at their schools has risen—from 72% in 1996 to 78% in 1998. By age 17, only 23% said that their school was drug-free, 54% said that alcohol was available at most parties they attended in the past six months and 35% said that pot was available.

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