Drinking Among Teenagers Widespread, C.D.C. Says

October 09, 1991 2 min read

Nearly 60 percent of all high school students have used alcohol during the past month, and almost 4 in 10 have had more than five drinks on a single occasion, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports.

Using national data as well as data from surveys conducted in 21 states and five cities, the c.D.c. found that tobacco, alcohol, and drug use is widespread among high-school students in virtually all parts of the country.

The study, released last month, is based on responses to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is a nationally representative sample of 11,631 students in grades 9 through 12.

The survey, which was conducted in 1990, asked students questions about a range of health issues. It is the largest federal effort to date to gather information about health-risk behaviors among adolescents.

Similar surveys were conducted by state and local departments of education. Since each state used different sampling techniques, C.D.C. officials said it is difficult to compare the data across states.

Among the state and local surveys, between 9 percent and 37 percent of the students said they had smoked in the last month, between 1 percent and 20 percent said they had used smokeless tobacco, and between 17 percent and 47 percent reported having had five or more drinks at one sitting.

Low Rates in Washington, D.C.

The surveys found that 37 percent of high-school students in Kentucky and West Virginia smoked cigarettes, the highest rate in the nation, while students in Washington, D.C., were the least likely to use tobacco. The highest “binge” drinking rate was recorded in New Mexico (45 percent), and the lowest rate was again found in Washington (17 percent).

Kansas, with 4 percent of its students reporting cocaine use during the past month, had the highest rate in the nation; West Virginia and Massachusetts had the highest percentage of students who said they used marijuana (17 percent). Washington, D.C., students were the least likely to use marijuana.

Nationally, the C.D.C. said, 32 percent of high-school students have smoked tobacco in the past month, 14 percent have used marijuana, and 2 percent have used cocaine.

In the coming weeks, the C.D.C. is expected to release national results from the survey on weapons, dieting, drug and alcohol use, physical activity, sexual activity, and seat belt and bicycle helmet use.

To date, federal officials have published survey results concerning physical education, tobacco use, and suicide attempts. (See Education Week, Sept. 18 and 25, and Oct. 2, 1991 .)--E.F.

A version of this article appeared in the October 09, 1991 edition of Education Week as Drinking Among Teenagers Widespread, C.D.C. Says