Youth in the 12th grade age range (ages 16 to 18) who have dropped out of school prior to graduating are more likely than their counterparts to be current users of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and other illicit drugs, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
The report considers those who reported use in the past month to be current users. For example, dropouts in this age group are more than twice as likely to be current smokers as youth continuing with their education (56.8 percent versus 22.4 percent).
The report also shows significant differences between the levels of illicit drug use between dropouts and those remaining in school. Overall current illicit drug use among dropouts was considerably higher than for those in school (31.4 percent versus 18.2 percent). Dropouts were more likely to be current marijuana users than those in school (27.3 percent versus 15.3 percent), and more likely to be current non-medical users of prescription drugs (9.5 percent versus 5.1 percent).
Similarly, there were significant differences in the levels of alcohol use between dropouts and those in school. Dropouts had higher overall levels of current alcohol use than students (41.6 percent versus 35.3 percent) and higher rates of current binge drinking (32.3 percent versus 23.8 percent). Binge drinking is defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days.
“The fact that nearly 1 in 7 students drops out of high school has enormous public health implications for our nation,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Dropouts are at increased risk of substance abuse, which is particularly troubling given that they are also at greater risk of poverty, not having health insurance, and other health problems. We have to do everything we can to keep youth in school so they can go on to lead healthy, productive lives, free from substance abuse.”
The study, Substance Use Among 12th Grade Aged Youths by Dropout Status, was based on data drawn from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).