Study Documents Specific Risk Factors that Can Lead to Teen Substance Abuse

Survey of Americans' Attitudes on Substance Abuse

In 1996, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse conducted its second annual National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse, with a focus on teenagers and their parents.

CASA's first annual study, in 1995, was the most comprehensive survey ever undertaken of American public opinion on substance abuse.

Key Findings

  • The 1996 survey, which included interviews with 1,200 teens and 1,166 parents, included the following findings:

    • By age 17, only 12 percent of teens can be categorized as "least at-risk" for using drugs while 41 percent are "in-peril" of using drugs.
    • Age 15 appears to be the threshold year when risk for using drugs increases.
    • The most important "risk factors" for substance abuse are:
      • proximity to illegal drugs;
      • attitudes toward illegal drugs;
      • standards of conduct—evidence of rules of behavior in the teen's life, especially those that would hold that drug use is morally wrong;
      • the teen's family life.

    The 1996 findings received wide attention in the media. They were cited by President Clinton and Newt Gingrich. Hillary Rodham Clinton referenced them in her book, It Takes a Village.