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Substance Use in 12th Grade Dropouts Greater Than in Teens Who Stay in School

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Teens who are old enough to be in 12th grade, but have dropped out of school, have higher substance abuse rates than their peers who are enrolled in school, according to a new government report.

Dropouts ages 16 to 18 are more likely to be current users of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and other illicit drugs, Newswise reports. They are more than twice as likely as their peers in school to be current smokers (56.8 percent versus 22.4 percent), the report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found.

Overall, 31.4 percent of dropouts use illicit drugs, compared with 18.2 percent of older teens enrolled in school. The report found 27.3 percent of dropouts use marijuana, compared with 15.3 percent of those in school. Among dropouts, 41.6 percent use alcohol, compared with 35.3 percent of their peers still in school. Dropouts’ rate of binge drinking was also higher—32.3 percent, versus 23.8 percent.

“The fact that nearly one in seven students drops out of high school has enormous public health implications for our nation,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release. “Dropouts are at increased risk of substance abuse, which is particularly troubling given that they are also at greater risk of poverty, not having health insurance, and other health problems. We have to do everything we can to keep youth in school so they can go on to lead healthy, productive lives, free from substance abuse.”

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