Usual Level of Alcohol Intoxication (Student Reported), by Grade Level
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Learn More About Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs

Measures of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, indicators of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use come from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS)California Student Survey (CSS), and California School Climate Survey (CSCS). These indicators are made available through a partnership with WestEd, which developed and administers the surveys, and the California Department of Education. Indicators include:
* These data are available by grade level (7th, 9th, 11th, and non-traditional students), gender, race/ethnicity, and level of connectedness to school. School connectedness is a summary measure that includes the following elements: being treated fairly, feeling close to people, feeling happy, feeling part of school, and feeling safe at school.
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs
Bullying and Harassment at School
Community Connectedness
Dating and Domestic Violence
Disconnected Youth
Emotional/Mental Health
Gang Involvement
Pupil Support Service Personnel
Juvenile Arrests
School Safety
School Connectedness
Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions
Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury
Why This Topic Is Important
Youth alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use is associated with a wide range of health, social, and academic problems. Teen alcohol use, especially binge drinking, has been linked to risky health behaviors (e.g., unprotected sex), poor academic performance, cognitive functioning problems, physical and/or dating violence, motor vehicle accidents, crime, and suicide attempts (1, 2). Drinking during adolescence also is linked to a higher risk of alcohol dependence in adulthood, and excessive alcohol consumption can have long-term health consequences, including liver disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, among other chronic conditions (1, 2). Cigarette smoking during the teen years is related to risky behavior, such as drinking and other drug use (3). Most long-term smokers start when they are teens or young adults, and sustained smoking is associated with cancer, heart disease, respiratory illness, and other health problems (4). The federal government reports that tobacco is the leading cause of preventable and premature death in the U.S., resulting in more than 440,000 deaths annually (4). Marijuana use, too, is linked to adverse health effects, such as anxiety attacks, memory impairment, coordination loss, increased heart rate, respiratory problems, and cognitive difficulties (5). In addition, adolescent marijuana use is associated with lower academic performance and more delinquent and aggressive behavior (5).
Alcohol is the most widely used substance among the nation's youth (2, 6). According to 2014 data, 37% of U.S. 12th graders reported drinking an alcoholic beverage at least once in the past month, and 19% reported binge drinking (5+ drinks in a row) at least once in the past two weeks, the lowest levels in decades (6). Youth reports of cigarette smoking also have been on the decline, with about 14% of 12th graders reporting use at least once in the past month and 7% reporting daily use, based on a 2014 survey (6). The same survey gathered data on marijuana use, as well, and found that about one in five (21%) 12th graders reported using marijuana in the past month, and about 6% reported using it daily, similar to previous years (6). While progress has been made in many areas to reduce youth substance use, it remains a significant public health concern (2).

For more information on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs please see kidsdata.org's Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Child Trends Databank. (2014). Binge drinking. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=binge-drinking

2.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). Report to congress on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking. Retrieved from: http://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/resources/reporttocongress/RTC2013.aspx?src=|18| 

3.  Child Trends Databank. (2014). Daily cigarette use. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=daily-cigarette-use

4.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). Ending the tobacco epidemic: Progress toward a healthier nation. Retrieved from: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/initiatives/tobacco/index.html

5.  Child Trends Databank. (2014). Marijuana use. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=marijuana-use

6.  Johnston, L. D., et al. (2015). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2014: Overview, key findings on adolescent drug use. Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. Retrieved from: http://www.monitoringthefuture.org//pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2014.pdf
How Children Are Faring
According to 2011-13 data, 15% of 7th graders, 26% of 9th graders, and 38% of 11th graders in California public schools reported using alcohol or any illegal drug (excluding tobacco) in the past 30 days. When asked if they had ever consumed alcohol, 38% of 9th graders and 59% of 11th graders reported having at least one full drink in their lifetime, according to 2011-13 data. Percentages typically are lower for reported cigarette use, marijuana use, and recreational use of prescription drugs, and also are lower among among 7th graders than 9th and 11th graders. Non-traditional students, those enrolled in Community Day Schools or Continuation Education, more frequently reported substance use. Students who reported feeling less connected to their schools also reported higher levels of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. 

Public school staff reports of the extent to which alcohol or drug use is a problem at their school echo student responses. According to 2011-13 data, more than half (53%) of high school staff reported that student alcohol and drug use is a 'moderate' or 'severe' problem.
Policy Implications
Public policy can promote early identification of known risk factors for youth substance use, such as poor school performance, truancy, lack of parental supervision, aggressive behavior, drug availability, and substance use by peers (1, 2, 3). It 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 specifically tailored to the population and risk factors (3, 4). Controlling youth smoking and alcohol consumption also requires particular attention to mass media and marketing (5, 6, 8).

According to research and subject experts, policy options for addressing alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use by youth include:

  • Prioritizing screening and early identification of risk factors correlated with substance use, especially among middle school youth; screening should include mental health issues, as they often co-occur with substance abuse (3, 4)
  • 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 (6, 7, 8)
  • Promoting youth-focused, mass media counter-marketing strategies to combat tobacco and alcohol advertising and its appealing depiction in the media; and reducing youth exposure to tobacco and alcohol marketing, including monitoring compliance with marketing standards (5, 6, 8)
  • Ensuring adequate funding, accessibility, and availability of developmentally appropriate, research-based treatment for youth substance abuse (3, 4)
  • Continuing to enforce, strengthen, and extend evidence-based legislation, such as increased prices on alcohol and tobacco products, and keg registration requirements (6, 8, 9)
For more policy ideas on this topic, see the Research & Links section on kidsdata.org or visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and StopAlcoholAbuse.gov. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under School Connectedness, Emotional/Mental Health, and Juvenile Arrests.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Patrick, M., & Schulenberg, J. (2014). Prevalence and predictors of adolescent alcohol use and binge drinking in the United States. Alcohol Research, 35(2), 193–200. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3908711/

2.  Marshal, E. J. (2014). Adolescent alcohol use: Risks and consequences. Alcohol and Alcoholism, (49)2, 160-164. Retrieved from: http://alcalc.oxfordjournals.org/content/49/2/160

3.  American Public Human Services Association. (2013). Behavioral health—prevention, early identification, and intervention: A Pathways policy brief. Retrieved from: http://www.aphsa.org/content/dam/aphsa/pdfs/Pathways/2013-06-BehavioralHealth-Prevention-Early-Identification-Intervention-PolicyBrief.pdf

4.  Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services & Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Joint CMCS and SAMHSA informational bulletin: Coverage of behavioral health services for youth with substance use disorders. Retrieved from: http://medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/downloads/cib-01-26-2015.pdf

5.  Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. (2012). State laws to reduce the impact of alcohol marketing on youth: Current status and model policies. Retrieved from: http://www.camy.org/action/Legal_Resources/State%20Ad%20Laws/CAMY_State_Alcohol_Ads_Report_2012.pdf

6.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). Report to Congress on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/resources/reporttocongress/RTC2013.aspx?src=|18|

7.  National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2013). Underage drinking. Retrieved from: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/UnderageDrinking/Underage_Fact.pdf

8.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). Preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults: A report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2012/index.htm

9.  Sacks, V. H., et al. (2014). Research brief: An analysis of state underage drinking policies and adolescent alcohol use. Child Trends. Retrieved from: http://nahic.ucsf.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2014-40UnderageDrinking.pdf

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs