Do you wonder about alcohol and drug use habits for American teenagers on an average day? SAMSHA has just released a new report, A Day In The Life of American Adolescents: Substance Use Facts Update. This report presents information about teen’s use of cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs “on an average day”. It also describes first time use. This report is an update to the original 2007 document but has an additional section on drug related emergency department visits.

Substance Use Data:
Data show that on an average day in 2008, more than 1 million teenagers, age 12 – 17 smoked cigarettes, more than 500,000 drank alcohol, and more than 500,000 smoked marijuana.

Data also indicate the following for first time use on an average day:

  • More than 7,500 drank alcohol for the first time
  • More than 3,800 smoked cigarettes for the first time
  • More than 4,300 used an illicit drug for the first time.

Emergency Room Data:
Emergency Room data show that on an average day, 465 visits to ED’s for adolescents age 12 – 17 involved the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, or the misuse of pharmaceuticals.

Alcohol played a role in many of the ED visits, and often other drugs, including marijuana, also were involved.

A substantial number of ED visits took place for drug related suicide attempts.

SAMSHA tracks numbers of teens under the age of 18 who received substance abuse treatment outpatient (over 76,000), inpatient(762) and residential(over 9,200) on an average day.

This data provides a “picture” of American teens, their substance habits, on an average day. I believe it offers all of us who work with and care about our teens the opportunity to understand “what they are doing” and how we can help them optimally not begin substance use and for those who have already begun, assist them in stopping. We know from the research that delay of first onset of use is extremely important. During the days and evenings of summer freedom may all of us use our tools of talk and connection, keeping in mind our own role modeling, providing fun alcohol and drug free alternatives to help our teens.