Teen Dropouts Likelier to Smoke, Drink and Do Drugs, Says SAMHSA

Photo Courtesy of Michael HooperA new Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report finds that 16- and 18- year-old teenagers who drop out of high school are much more likely to engage in tobacco, alcohol and illegal drug use than kids who stay in school.

According to the study, 12th graders who drop out of classes are nearly 35 percent more likely to use cigarettes than 12th graders that remain in high school, and about 6 percent more likely to engage in alcohol use. Teenage dropouts were also found to be 8.5 percent more likely to binge drink than their peers.

The authors of the report say dropouts are 13 percent more likely to use illicit drugs of any kind, and 12 percent more likely to engage in marijuana use than kids still in school. Young people that drop out of high school were also found to be about 5 percent more likely to misuse prescription medications than young people still attending classes.

Although the study reports the elevated rates generally held true for both male and female students, there were some notable differences regarding racial demographics.

While cigarette use by white dropouts (69.3 percent) was easily two times higher than that of white students who remained in school (26.6 percent), the same rate was nearly four times higher when comparing the smoking rates of black dropouts (50.3 percent) and black students enrolled in high school (11.5 percent).

Analyzing Hispanic young people, the general rates of alcohol and illegal substance use were similar for dropouts and students alike, with Hispanic 12th graders demonstrating marginally higher rates of alcohol use than Hispanic dropouts.

“Dropping out of high school is related to a number of negative socioeconomic and health outcomes,” the report reads. “Thus, prevention efforts targeted to adolescents generally and to those at risk of dropping out of high school more specifically might improve the educational, employment and financial, and health outcomes of many youths.”

Photo by Micahel Hooper |


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