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High School Dropout Rates Linked to Substance Abuse

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In the United States, one out of seven high school students drops out before they make it to graduation day. This is an alarming statistic in this day and age where a college degree barely guarantees a future income that can support a family. Perhaps not surprisingly, a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that high school dropouts are more likely than those who receive their diploma to abuse many addictive substances, including:

  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana

SAMHSA found this data from a study titled Substance Use Among 12th Grade Aged Youths by Dropout Status from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The findings point to a huge public health problem.  Indeed, dropouts will be less likely to have jobs that will provide the ability for health insurance to cover the costs of the medical issues that arise from the abuse of these drugs or the potential need for treatment.

The SAMHSA study analyzed the behavior of youth ranging in age from 16 to 18 years old. They found that those no longer in school during this time period in their life were far more likely to have used drugs within the last 30 days. In fact, dropouts smoked cigarettes at more than twice the rate of those still in school. The number of high school smokers hovered around 22 percent whereas the number of dropouts using them was at nearly 57 percent.

Drug use and dropout rates have a strong correlation as we notice the rates for illicit drug use among dropouts were much larger than their classroom-bound counterparts. SAMHSA reported that roughly 31 percent of dropouts were currently using illicit substances while just about 18 percent of those in school were engaging in this behavior. The rates for the two most abused illicit substances by teens were as follows:

  • Marijuana: 27 percent of dropouts vs. 15 percent of high school students
  • Prescription drugs: Almost 10 percent for dropouts vs. 5 percent for high school students
  • Alcohol abuse: Nearly 42 percent for dropouts vs. 35 percent for high school students

High School Dropout Consequences & Prevention

Given these statistics, action needs to be taken. Hence, keeping youth in school needs to be a top priority. Without question, there is a price to be paid by our whole society. Every teen that drops out of high school hurts the entire community. The damage being done needs to be addressed.

Pamela S. Hyde, the former Administrator of SAMHSA and a noted expert in the field, expresses a powerful truth when she says,

“The fact that nearly 1 in 7 students drops out of high school has enormous public health implications for our nation.”

The increased impact on public health occurs not only because of the elevated risk for drug abuse but for the following issues as well:

  • Poverty
  • Lack of healthcare coverage
  • Increased number of health problems and illness

Hyde makes the point that we need to do everything we can towards high school dropout prevention so they have the best shot at leading healthy, fulfilling lives.

If you think your teen is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact us to discover the potential path to recovery for your son or daughter.

Photo courtesy of unsplash.