2 min read
Hands with drug free written across them

Many young people today are confronted with drugs at their school, in their neighborhoods, or at home. Drug use among youth is often based on many societal pressures. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System and other organizations are working to promote and encourage today’s youth to live drug free.

Youth Drug Trends

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) releases the Monitoring the Future Survey each year. This survey measures drug use among teens in grades eight, 10, and 12. The 2019 survey revealed some interesting trends. While the misuse of cigarettes, alcohol, and most prescription drugs declined, illicit drug use among teens remained steady. Results further indicated that vaping use among teens increased dramatically during the past two years.

  • The survey showed nicotine vaping use equates to
    • one in 10 users among 8th graders
    • one in five users among 10th graders
    • one in four users among 12th graders
  • Marijuana vaping use from 2018 to 2019 was the second largest one-year jump ever tracked for any substance in the 45-year history of the survey, increasing from 7.5 percent to 14 percent.

Why Youth Use Drugs

Young people may experiment with drugs as preteens and continue using drugs well into adulthood. Stressors, such as friendships, grades, extracurricular activities, and their appearance can cause youth to turn to drugs and alcohol for relief.

NIDA sites these as several primary reasons why teens and preteens experiment with drugs.

  • Fit in. Youth want to be liked and accepted by their peers, so they may follow patterns other youth to fit in.
  • Feel good. Drugs create a pleasurable feeling that can lead to a desire for more of a substance.
  • Feel better. Some adolescents view drugs as an outlet for stressors experienced in life.
  • Perform better. Youth believe that certain substances can make a difference when trying to enhance academic and athletic performance. These substances can be illegal and/or prescription drugs.
  • Experiment. Some youth are just curious about experiencing drugs.


Having support, along with more insight into the effects of drugs, can be essential to helping youth remain drug free. With access to the Internet and television, youth absorb many mixed messages regarding drugs. It is up to educators, parents, and other community leaders to ensure that youth receive instruction on how to make good decisions when it comes to substance use.

Parents, in particular, are advised to remain active in the lives of their children. As the first role models they encounter, it’s important for parents to talk to their children about drug use and to set good examples for them to follow.

Alabama 4-H Health Rocks!®

Alabama Extension also recognizes the critical need for strong decision-making skills. These skills guide youth away from risky behaviors, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use.  The Alabama 4-H Health Rocks!® program helps youth to

  • reduce smoking and tobacco use
  • build life skills that lead to healthy lifestyle choices (stress management, coping, and substance refusal skills)
  • encourage youth and adults to form partnerships to develop and implement community strategies that reduce smoking and other substance abuses

To learn more about Alabama Extension’s Health Rocks!® program, contact Angela Williams, Extension 4-H youth development specialist, at 256.372.5713 or arw0033@aces.edu.

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