View the Full Infographic: Facts about Teen Drug and Alcohol Use

teen drug and alcohol facts

One and a half out of ten.

That's how many 8th-graders have tried marijuana and/or cigarettes in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Three out of ten.

That's how many 8th-graders have drunk alcohol.

It’s no secret that alcohol and drug abuse have become a major public issue in America, especially for the nation's youth. Teenagers are actively abusing marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco as early as middle school. By eighth grade, 15% of adolescents are reported to have used marijuana, 15.5% have smoked cigarettes, and almost 30% have tried drinking alcohol at least once.

Almost 13% of 16- and 17-year-olds abuse marijuana, while 4% use prescription drugs in a nonmedical fashion, and 1.6% misuse hallucinogens. Alcohol abuse among university students is rampant: almost 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 suffer alcohol-related injuries each year (and there are 1,825 alcohol-related fatalities). Almost 700,000 alcohol-related assaults take place on college campuses yearly.

Additionally, teens who abuse substances experience a wide array of problems:

Academic Consequences

  • Drugs and alcohol chemically alter the brain—especially the young and malleable brains of teenagers, leaving them unable to concentrate and impairing their learning abilities.
  • About 25% of university students have reported negative academic consequences caused by excessive drinking, including missed classes, struggling to keep up, failed exams, poor reviews on papers, and lower grades overall.

Sexual Assault and Date Rapes

  • On university campuses, alcohol and drug use are significant factors for an increasing rate of date rapes.
  • Victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape among university students were more than 97,000, with 75% of men and 55% women reporting knowing someone who experienced the trauma of date rape on campus.

Unsafe Sex

  • Over 400,000 students reported having unprotected sex after consuming alcohol.


  • Excessive alcohol drinking can seriously damage a teenager’s health and development.
  • Alcohol kills more teenagers each year than any other drugs.
  • About 1,825 university students between 18 to 24 years of age die from fatal alcohol-related injuries including car accidents. Alcohol remains the third leading preventable cause of death in the US.

Driving Accidents

  • Teenagers, thanks to the way their brains work, and their tendency to ignore risk or danger for the sake of having fun, are more likely to drink and drive than any other age group. As a result, they get into more accidents and cause more fatalities on America's roads. Roughly 23% of teens admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs, or marijuana at some point in their lives. Drunk/drugged driving accounts for a high percentage of teen deaths.

Emergency Room Visits

  • In 2010 alone there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits by young adults less than 21 years of age who had suffered from alcohol-related injuries.
  • There were over 66,500 teen emergency room visits relating to the non-medical use of prescription substances as well.

There are many reasons why teenagers turn to alcohol and drugs. Unfortunately, because of naïveté or inexperience, many teens don’t realize the consequences of their actions. They don't comprehend the permanent harm using drugs (even once) may cause. For this reason, it is very important for parents to open a line of communication to their children. Educating your teen and preparing them for what they may face will help them to make the right decision, and protect not only their academic performance but their life as well.

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