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.
The student-reported prevalence of drugs in schools is not limited to public institutions, says Califano. This year's survey found, for the first time, that more than half of students attending private school (54 percent) say illegal drugs are present at school, up from 36 percent in 2011.
More than half of high school students report that there is a place on or near campus where students go to drink, smoke, or get high, the survey found. About one-third of the students (36 percent) say it is easy for students to do this without getting caught. Also, 44 percent of high school students say they know a student who sells drugs at school. Drugs most often sold by students are marijuana (91 percent), prescription drugs (24 percent), cocaine (9 percent), and Ecstasy (7 percent).
CASAColumbia does not track the number of teen drug and alcohol users, but rather how high school students perceive the pressures they encounter day to day, Califano says. The organization used QEV Analytics, a public opinion research firm, to conduct telephone interviews with 510 girls and 493 boys between the ages of 12 and 17.
“The point is that we should not inflict this world on our kids and we are,” he says.
Percentages of ninth- and 12th-graders who admit to using drugs and alcohol, as tracked by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are lower than what the CASAColumbia survey would indicate.