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CASA Report Warns Parents about Nexus of Drugs and Gangs in Schools; Students Less Concerned

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American students are essentially split over the question of whether their school is “drug free,” but students still cite drugs as a major problem facing people their age, according to a new survey of 12- to 17-year-olds from the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

Asked, “Is your school a drug-free school or is it not drug free, meaning some students keep drugs, use drugs or sell drugs on school grounds?,” 48 percent of students described their schools as “drug free” while 49 percent said their schools were “not drug free.”

Drugs were cited as a major problem by 21 percent of survey respondents, far more than the other popular responses (13 percent for social pressure or fitting in) and doing well in school (10 percent). An accompanying survey of parents, however, ranked social pressure as the biggest problem facing teens (32 percent), while just 12 percent cited drugs and 9 percent named doing well in school.

Sixty percent of students said there were no gangs in their schools, while 39 percent of those who took part in the survey said there were gangs in their school or students who considered themselves to be part of a gang. Less than one percent of teens surveyed cited gang-related violence as an important problem facing kids their age, however.

CASA CEO Joseph Califano described U.S. public schools as “riddled with gangs.”

“Six out of 10 schools with gangs (58 percent) are drug infected (meaning drugs are used, kept or sold on school grounds), compared to three out of 10 (30 percent) schools without gangs,” Califano wrote.

“… The consequences are enough to terrify any parent with a child in a drug- and gang-infected school. Compared to 12- to 17-year olds at drug-and gang-free schools, those attending schools infected with drugs and gangs are five times likelier to use marijuana (21 percent vs. 4 percent) and three times likelier to drink (39 percent vs. 12 percent). Compared to 12- to 17- year olds at gang- and drug-free schools, those at schools with gangs and drugs are five times likelier to get marijuana in a day (42 percent vs. 8 percent) and three times likelier to get marijuana within an hour (16 percent vs. 5 percent).”

The “National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XV: Teens and Parents,” (PDF, 654 KB) is available online.

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