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Almost 1 in 5 teens smokes or uses drugs at school, US students report

Most high school students say teen use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs occurs during the school day, often on campus, according to an annual survey. They estimate that about 17 percent of their classmates do so. 

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Rep. Sanford Bishop (D) of Georgia and Columbus Councilman Bruce Huff welcome students off buses on the first day of school in the new George Washington Carver High School in Columbus, Ga., on Aug. 13, 2012.

Joe Paull/The Ledger-Enquirer/AP

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Eighty-six percent of American high school students report that some of their classmates use alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs during the school day.

That's among the most significant findings of an annual survey of teenagers about their perceptions of drug use, released Wednesday, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia) in New York.

The latest survey, the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens, gives parents a teen's-eye view of the relentlessness and pervasiveness of the school drug problem, says Joseph Califano Jr., founder and chairman emeritus of CASAColumbia and former US secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

The survey gives a “graphic portrait of what is going on in high schools and among high school students – the fact that we have 9 out of 10 students saying that classmates are using drugs, drinking, and smoking during school the day on or near school grounds,” says Mr. Califano during a phone interview.

According to their peers, 17 percent of high school students use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs while at school, the survey found by asking students to estimate the percentage of their classmates engage in this behavior while at school.

CASAColumbia has tracked the attitudes of high school students and their perceptions of drug use for 17 years. For seven of the past eight years, the survey has found that about 60 percent of high school students say their schools are "drug-infected" – that drugs are used, kept, or sold on campus. This percentage is up from 44 percent in 2002, but down from 66 percent in 2010.

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