REPORTED CONSEQUENCES OF SUBSTANCE USE
Even the moderate use of alcohol and drugs by young people is grounded in supportive subcultures and countercultures. Drinking and drug use behavior, anchored in reference group norms, are resistant to suppression, modification, or extinction by outside influences. As a result, young people often find themselves in conflict with the prevailing societal norms regulating acceptable behavior for adolescents.
This survey assessed the degree to which eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders who have ever tried alcohol and/or drugs experienced interpersonal, health, legal and educational problems directly attributable to their substance use problems. Sixth graders were not asked to respond to these items. Table 5.1 presents the percentages of surveyed students who responded that they experienced these problems because of their alcohol use.
These data show that the most frequently experienced alcohol-related problem by eighth graders who had tried alcohol was riding in cars with drinking drivers (36.0%). Only a small percentage of eighth graders indicated they had any of the other problems listed in the survey. The number reporting riding with drinking drivers increased for tenth graders (41.8%). The number of tenth grade students who say they were drunk at school (16.9%) or were absent from school (12.3%) was higher than found for eighth graders. Tenth grade students were more likely to be arrested for drinking (6.1%) than other age groups (5.7% eighth grade and 5.6% twelfth grade).
Among those who had tried drinking at least once, seniors report the highest percentages of alcohol-related problems. As is true for respondents in other grades, the largest number of seniors indicated they had been a passenger with a drinking driver (52.7%). In addition, more than a quarter of the senior respondents indicated they had driven while under the influence of alcohol (27.0%). Almost a fifth (18.4%) say they were drunk while attending school while some seniors (15.3%) reported they missed school because of their drinking.
Respondents were asked if they had tried to stop drinking but were unsuccessful in their efforts to do so. Tenth graders were most likely to report they had tried, but could not stop drinking (7.1%). The percentage was somewhat lower at the eighth grade level (6.7%) and lowest for twelfth graders (5.2%).
Similar to the patterns associated with alcohol use, older students who reported they had tried drugs experienced more problems. Among the surveyed eighth graders who had used drugs, the situation reported most frequently was riding with a driver who was using drugs (30.3%). Almost one quarter (24.6%) report they were high at school. Some eighth graders (17.1%) indicated they felt their school performance suffered as a result of drugs.
Among tenth graders who had used drugs, 43.3% reported they rode in cars with drug-using drivers while 34.0% reported they came to school high. Tenth graders also indicated their use of drugs contributed to school absences (17.5%), driving under the influence (15.2%), poor school performance (15.0%), and family problems (13.5%). Tenth graders were less likely than eighth or twelfth graders to attribute health problems to their drug use.
Like eighth and tenth graders, the most likely problem situation reported by seniors was riding as a passenger with a drug-using driver (58.0%). Seniors also reported being high at school (38.9%) and driving under the influence (35.3%). Seniors were less likely than eighth or tenth graders to report being arrested as a result of drug use (6.3% compared to 9.4% of eighth graders and 9.0% of tenth graders). Almost one fifth of responding seniors (19.7%) who used drugs reported being absent from school as a result of their drug use.
Respondents were also asked if they had tried unsuccessfully to stop using drugs. The data in Table 5.2 indicate this was somewhat more true for more eighth graders (10.3%) and seniors (10.1%) than for tenth graders (9.5%).
Older students are more likely than younger students to have used two or more drugs and the percentage of students who have used two or more drugs increases at each grade level (23.8% of eighth graders, 27.5% of tenth graders, and 34.1% of twelfth graders).
Overall, survey results show that drug users experience more family, health, academic, and legal problems than alcohol users. The exception to this is for eighth graders, who are more likely to have been a passenger with a drinking driver (36.0%) than with a drug-using driver (30.3%). Data trends also indicate that the number of students experiencing problems due to alcohol or drug use increases with grade level, although there are some exceptions to this trend. Exceptions are in health problems associated with drug use, arrests associated with alcohol and drug use, poor school performance associated with alcohol and drug use, and unsuccessfully trying to stop drinking or using drugs. In each of these areas, tenth grade students reported experiencing these problems less frequently than their eighth and twelfth grade counterparts.
Comparison to 1996 Data
Generally, fewer students in the 1998 MAS survey sample experienced problems than students surveyed in 1996; trends were generally downward in terms of the percentage of youth in each grade who had experienced a specific problem associated with their drug or alcohol use. There was, however, one exception. The percentage of students arrested because of alcohol use was higher across all three grades in 1998 than reported in 1996. The increase between 1996 and 1998 was 2.6 percentage points for eighth and tenth graders.
Only one problem decreased between 1996 and 1998 across all grades for alcohol use¾ being a passenger with a drinking driver. The difference represented a decrease of 2.3 percentage points for eighth graders between the 1996 MAS and the 1998 MAS, 3.8 percentage points for tenth graders, and a decrease of 3.4 percentage points for twelfth graders.
For drug use, fewer students reported four problems in the 1998 MAS than in 1996. These problems were health problems, having been high at school, having been a passenger with a drug-using driver, and using two or more drugs. For health problems, the decrease was one percentage point for eighth graders, 4.3 percentage points for tenth graders, and 3.1 percentage points for twelfth graders between the 1996 MAS and the 1998 MAS. For students who reported having been high at school, the decrease represented 5.3 percentage points for eighth graders between 1996 and 1998, 6.1 percentage points for tenth graders, and 4.8 percentage points for twelfth graders. Similarly, for students who reported having been a passenger in a car with a drug-using driver, the decrease between 1996 and 1998 was 1.7 percentage points for eighth graders, 6.9 percentage points for tenth graders, and 5.9 percentage points for twelfth graders. Decreases for students who reported using two or more drugs were 2.9 percentage points for eighth graders, 4.6 percentage points for tenth graders, and 7.4 percentage points for twelfth graders.