Adolescents Perceive Greater Risk to Using Tobacco Products Than Illicit Drugs of Binge Drinking

01/04/2010

From the  SAMHSA Press Office
Telephone: 240-276-2130

Perceptions of lower risk may influence decisions to experiment with drugs
Adolescents across all age groups perceive a greater risk to smoking cigarettes than the use of alcohol and other substances including cocaine and LSD, according to a new report based on a national survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  An individual’s perception of risk about a substance can be a key factor whether they decide to refrain from using.

“We are on the right track with cigarette smoking and need to keep raising awareness among teens about the dangers of other substances,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “Understanding that perception of harm is a strong predictor of potential substance use among young people can help guide the development of substance prevention messages.”

The survey found that although the perception of risk in terms of cigarette smoking remained relatively constant among all adolescent groups, the perception of risk associated with other types of substances varied considerably by gender and age. Key findings from the NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) survey include:

  • Nearly 70 percent of adolescents aged 12-17 perceived great risk from smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day.  This rate was stable across age groups. 
  • Only 40 percent of adolescents perceived great risk from binge drinking (having five or more drinks of alcohol once or twice a week), and just over one third (34.2 percent) perceived great risk from smoking marijuana once a month.  About half perceived great risk in using cocaine once a month (49.7 percent) or LSD once or twice (50.9 percent).
  • Females were more likely than males to perceive great risk from smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day, from having five or more drinks of alcohol once or twice a week, and from smoking marijuana once a month; males were more likely than females to perceive great risk from trying heroin once or twice.

Perceptions of Risk from Substance Abuse among Adolescents  is based on the responses of 44,979 adolescents aged 12-17 participating in the 2007 and 2008 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).  The full report is available online at: http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/158/158RiskPerceptions.cfm.  It may also be obtained by calling the SAMHSA Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727) or at: http://ncadistore.samhsa.gov/catalog/productDetails.aspx?ProductID=18235.

For related publications and information, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/ .  

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