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- Definition: Estimated percentage of public school students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs who have used alcohol or drugs (excluding tobacco) in the previous 30 days, by gender and grade level (e.g., in 2017-2019, an estimated 17.4% of female 9th graders in California had used alcohol or drugs in the previous month).
- Data Source: WestEd, California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) & Biennial State CHKS. California Dept. of Education (Aug. 2020).
- Footnote: Years presented comprise two school years (e.g., 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years are shown as 2017-2019). County- and state-level data are weighted estimates; school district-level data are unweighted. Students in non-traditional programs are those enrolled in community day schools or continuation education. The notation S refers to (a) data for school districts that have been suppressed because there were fewer than 10 respondents in that group, and (b) data for counties that have been suppressed because the sample was too small to be representative. N/A means that data are not available.
- Measures of Youth Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, indicators of youth alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use come from:
Data based on student reports come from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and are available by grade level (7, 9, 11, and/or non-traditional), gender, level of school connectedness,* parent education level, and sexual orientation.
- Student reports of alcohol or drug use (excluding tobacco) in the previous month overall and on school property
- Student reports of the number of days they used alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and marijuana in the previous month
- Student reports of the number of days they binge drank in the previous month
- Student reports of the number times they have used alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and marijuana in their lifetimes
- Student reports of the number times they have driven when they had been using alcohol or drugs or ridden with a driver who had been using in their lifetimes
- Staff reports of the extent to which, at their school, student alcohol and drug use is a problem, substance abuse prevention is an important goal, and substance use prevention education is provided
State-level CHKS estimates, although derived from the Biennial State CHKS, may differ from data published in Biennial State CHKS reports due to differences in grade-level classification of students in continuation high schools.
*Levels of school connectedness are based on a scale created from responses to five questions about feeling safe, close to people, and a part of school, being happy at school, and about teachers treating students fairly.
- Youth Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use
- Alcohol/Drug Use in Past Month, by Grade Level
- Alcohol/Drug Use on School Property in Past Month, by Grade Level
- Alcohol/Drug Use and Driving in Lifetime, by Grade Level
- Alcohol Use in Past Month, by Grade Level
- Binge Drinking in Past Month, by Grade Level
- Alcohol Use in Lifetime, by Grade Level
- Cigarette Use in Past Month, by Grade Level
- Cigarette Use in Lifetime, by Grade Level
- E-Cigarette Use in Past Month, by Grade Level
- E-Cigarette Use in Lifetime, by Grade Level
- Marijuana Use in Past Month, by Grade Level
- Marijuana Use in Lifetime, by Grade Level
- Student Alcohol and Drug Use Is a Problem at School (Staff Reported)
- Substance Abuse Prevention Is an Important Goal at School (Staff Reported)
- Substance Use Prevention Education Is Provided at School (Staff Reported)
- Children's Emotional Health
- Hospitalizations for Mental Health Issues, by Age Group
- Youth Needing Help for Emotional or Mental Health Problems
- Student Depression or Mental Health Is a Problem at School (Staff Reported)
- School Emphasizes Helping Students with Emotional and Behavioral Problems (Staff Reported)
- Pupil Support Services
- Number of Pupil Support Service Personnel, by Type of Personnel
- Ratio of Students to Pupil Support Service Personnel, by Type of Personnel
- School Provides Adequate Counseling and Support Services for Students (Staff Reported)
- School Provides Services for Substance Abuse or Other Problems (Staff Reported)
- School Collaborates with Community Organizations to Address Youth Problems (Staff Reported)
- Childhood Adversity and Resilience
- Children with Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported), by Number (CA & U.S. Only)
- Children with Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported), by Type (CA & U.S. Only)
- Children with Two or More Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported), by Race/Ethnicity (CA & U.S. Only)
- Prevalence of Childhood Hardships (Maternal Retrospective)
- Parental Drinking or Drug Problem (Maternal Retrospective)
- Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (Adult Retrospective)
- School Climate
- School Connectedness (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- School Supports (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Caring Relationships with Adults at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- High Expectations from Adults at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Meaningful Participation at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Adults at School Care About Students (Staff Reported)
- Adults at School Believe in Student Success (Staff Reported)
- School Welcomes and Facilitates Parent Involvement (Staff Reported)
- School Gives Students Opportunities to Make a Difference (Staff Reported)
- School Fosters Youth Resilience or Asset Promotion (Staff Reported)
- Juvenile Arrests
- School Attendance and Discipline
- Why This Topic Is Important
Youth alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use is a significant public health concern linked to a wide range of academic, social, and health problems (1). Alcohol is the most widely used substance among the nation's young people and initiation peaks in the years between Grades 7 and 11 (2). Underage drinking is associated with risky health behaviors (e.g., unsafe sexual practices), injuries, motor vehicle accidents, impaired cognitive functioning, poor academic performance, physical violence, and suicide attempt (2). Binge drinking places youth and those around them at even higher risk for negative outcomes (2). Drinking during adolescence increases the likelihood of alcohol dependence in adulthood, and excessive alcohol consumption can have long-term health consequences, including liver disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease (2).
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable and premature death in the U.S., resulting in more than 480,000 deaths annually (3). Smoking causes cumulative, irreversible harm, and most long-term smokers start when they are teens or young adults (3, 4). Tobacco use or smoking in any form—including e-cigarettes—is unsafe (4). Marijuana use, too, is linked to adverse effects such as respiratory problems, anxiety attacks, cognitive difficulties, and coordination loss, as well as aggressive behavior and poor academic performance among youth (5).Despite historically low rates of heroin and non-heroin narcotic use among U.S. teens in recent years, the rate of opioid-related overdose death has increased dramatically—tripling between 1999 (0.8 deaths per 100,000 teens ages 15-19) and 2015 (2.4 deaths per 100,000) (6, 7).
For more information on this topic, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Youth.gov. (n.d.). Substance use/misuse. Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs. Retrieved from: https://youth.gov/youth-topics/substance-abuse
2. Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking. (2020). Report to Congress on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking. Retrieved from: https://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/about-iccpud/data/national-reports/report-to-congress
3. Office of the Surgeon General. (2014). The health consequences of smoking—50 years of progress. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/50th-anniversary
4. Wang, T. W., et al. (2019). Tobacco product use and associated factors among middle and high school students — United States, 2019. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 68(12), 1-22. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/ss/ss6812a1.htm
5. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (n.d.). Marijuana. Retrieved from: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana
6. Johnston, L. D., et al. (2021). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use 1975-2020: 2020 overview, key findings on adolescent drug use. University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Retrieved from: http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2020.pdf
7. Curtain, S. C., et al. (2017). Drug overdose deaths among adolescents aged 15-19 in the United States: 1999-2015. National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db282.htm
- How Children Are Faring
According to a 2017-2019 survey of California public school students, 7% of 7th graders, 15% of 9th graders, 23% of 11th graders, and 29% of students in non-traditional programs had used alcohol or drugs in the previous 30 days. An estimated 8% of 11th graders had binge drunk (consumed five or more drinks of alcohol within a couple of hours) at least once in the previous month, and 13% had either driven when they had been using alcohol or drugs, or had ridden with a driver who had been using, at least once in their lifetimes. E-cigarette use typically was more common than cigarette smoking: 26% of 11th graders had used e-cigarettes at least once in their lifetimes, compared with 8% who had smoked cigarettes. Lifetime marijuana use among California 11th graders was 29% in 2017-2019, down from 41% in 2011-2013, with percentages ranging from 17% to 56% across counties with data.
Across grade levels, the estimated proportion of students who have ever used alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and marijuana has fallen in recent years. In general, students with low levels of school connectedness, those whose parents did not finish high school, and gay, lesbian, and bisexual students more frequently report substance use than their peers in other groups.
High school staff reports from 2017-2019 show that more than half (52%) considered alcohol and drug use among students at their school a moderate or severe problem. More than three-quarters (77%) agreed that substance abuse prevention was an important goal at their school, and more than two-thirds (67%) reported that their school provided at least some substance use prevention education.
- Policy Implications
Public policy can promote early identification of known risk factors for youth substance misuse, such as poor school performance, truancy, lack of parental supervision, aggressive behavior, drug availability, and substance use by peers (1, 2). Policies and programs also can promote protective factors, such as school engagement, positive community connections, and academic success (1). Screening and early intervention can be effective, especially when tailored specifically to population and risk factors (3). Controlling youth smoking, vaping, and alcohol consumption also requires particular attention to mass media and marketing (4, 5).
Policy and program options for addressing youth alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use include:
For more information, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or visit the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. Also see Policy Implications for School Climate and Children's Emotional Health on kidsdata.org.
- Prioritizing screening and early identification of risk factors correlated with substance use, especially among middle school youth; assessments should target mental health issues, as they often co-occur with substance abuse (3, 6)
- Developing comprehensive policies that promote school and community connectedness among youth and help them develop the knowledge, skills, and motivation to avoid substance use; such policies should focus on preadolescence through young adulthood and involve support from families, schools, colleges, community organizations, government, and others (4, 5, 6)
- Recognizing that substance misuse and mental health disorders are inherently health conditions, embedding research-based prevention and treatment services into mainstream health care settings, and expanding behavioral health care accessibility, coverage, and coordination across systems (3)
- Promoting youth focused, mass media counter-marketing strategies to combat tobacco and alcohol advertising; also reducing youth exposure to tobacco and alcohol marketing by monitoring compliance with marketing standards (4, 5)
- Continuing to enforce, strengthen, and extend evidence-based legislation such as beer keg registration laws and increased prices on alcohol and tobacco products (4, 5, 7)
Sources for this narrative:
1. Patrick, M. E., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2013). Prevalence and predictors of adolescent alcohol use and binge drinking in the United States. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 35(2), 193-200. Retrieved from: https://arcr.niaaa.nih.gov/measuring-burden-alcohols-evolving-impact-individuals-families-and-society/prevalence-and
2. Marshall, E. J. (2014). Adolescent alcohol use: Risks and consequences. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 49(2), 160-164. Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/49/2/160/205895
3. Office of the Surgeon General. (2016). Facing addiction in America: The Surgeon General's report on alcohol, drugs, and health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from: https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-generals-report.pdf
4. Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking. (2020). Report to Congress on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking. Retrieved from: https://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/about-iccpud/data/national-reports/report-to-congress
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults: A report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2012
6. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). Underage drinking. Retrieved from: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/underage-drinking
7. Sacks, V. H., et al. (2014). An analysis of state underage drinking policies and adolescent alcohol use. Child Trends. Retrieved from: https://www.childtrends.org/publications/an-analysis-of-state-underage-drinking-policies-and-adolescent-alcohol-use-2
- Websites with Related Information
- Alcohol and Public Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Alcohol Policy Information System. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development. University of Colorado Boulder.
- California Tobacco Control Program. California Dept. of Public Health.
- Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
- Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
- Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking
- Monitoring the Future Survey. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. National Institutes of Health.
- Underage Drinking. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- Youth Tobacco Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Youth.gov. Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs.
- Key Reports and Research
- Monitoring the Future: Publications. University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
- Youth Tobacco Product Use in the United States. (2015). Pediatrics. Lee, Y. O., et al.
- County/Regional Reports
- Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County. Orange County Children's Partnership.
- Orange County Community Indicators Report. Orange County Community Indicators Project.
- San Mateo County All Together Better. San Mateo County Health.
- Santa Clara County Public Health Department: Open Data Portal
- Santa Monica Youth Wellbeing Report Card. Santa Monica Cradle to Career.
- Youth Need Data. Get Healthy San Mateo County.
- More Data Sources For Youth Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use
- California Health and Human Services Open Data Portal. California Health and Human Services Agency.
- California Health Interview Survey. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
- Childstats.gov. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.
- Health, United States, 2019 – Data Finder. National Center for Health Statistics.
- Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Youth Tobacco Survey. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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