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Background on Youth Prevention

Scope of the Problem:

  • Those who initiate drug use (tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, opioids, stimulants) at a young age are more likely to experience problems later with that drug or others.
  • Although smoking tobacco is at a historic low among U.S. teenagers, the prevalence of vaping is soaring.
  • About 1 in 7 twelfth graders has consumed five or more alcoholic drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks.
  • Heavy substance use among adolescents raises the risk of school dropout, psychological problems, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen pregnancy.


Challenges in Policy and Practice:

  • Treatment services for addicted adolescents are in short supply throughout the country.
  • Many widely employed prevention programs for youth show little evidence of effectiveness. Meanwhile, programs with stronger evidence of effectiveness often go unused.
  • Fewer than 20% of adolescents with substance use disorders are identified by medical providers. 
  • Taxes and pricing policies for marijuana and alcohol don’t often consider that adolescents are price sensitive and that higher costs might reduce adverse public health impact