teenage drinking

Alcohol, marijuana, and other drug use among children and adolescents is a major public concern. Recent research on middle and senior high school students showed a reversal of previous declines in smoking marijuana and using drugs other than marijuana, a decline in students\' personal disapproval of marijuana, and a high prevalence of alcohol use (Johnston, O\'Malley, and Bachman 1996; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1996). Concern over this trend surfaced in the popular press, resulting in calls for measures to prevent teen drug use (Christian Science Monitor 1996; Friend 1996; Johnson 1996).
The use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs has long been linked with several negative outcomes for youth, including poor academic achievement and school dropout (Jessor and Jessor 1977; Kolbe et al. 1986; Dryfoos 1990; Mensch and Kandel 1981). Peer approval of the use of alcohol and other drugs and the availability and use of these substances by other students at school are prominent influences on students to use drugs (Dusek and Girdano 1987; Gelfand, Jenson, and Drew 1982; Gottfredson 1988).

In this Brief, student reports of peer approval, availability, and use at school of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs are examined in connection with school and student characteristics including participation in school alcohol/drug education programs. Although student reports reflect perceptions rather than objective measures of substance availability, use, and peer approval, they provide valuable information about the perceived presence of substances at school and the norms of fellow students. These findings based on the school environment lend confirmation to the other recent findings about drugs and adolescents. They also point to the potential value of the message perceived by students in school alcohol/drug education as a preventative measure. The data in this Brief are from the 1993 National Household Education Survey conducted by Westat for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Data were collected in telephone interviews with 6,504 students in grades 6 through 12.

Availability of Alcohol, Marijuana, and Other Drugs at School
The availability of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs at school is a major contributing factor to the school learning environment and to students\' opportunities to use these substances. Students were asked how difficult it wouldbe for them to get alcohol,/1/ marijuana, or other drugs at school if they wanted to obtain these substances. Their responses indicated whether drugs were very easy, fairly easy, hard, or nearly impossible to obtain. Table 1 shows the percentages reporting that various substances were very easy or fairly easy to obtain at school. About 30 percent of U.S. students in grades 6 through 12 reported that alcohol and marijuana were easily available at school, while fewer students, about 20 percent, reported that other drugs were easily available at school.

Differences in Student Reports of Alcohol, Marijuana, and Other Drug Availability at School by School and Student Characteristics
Student reports of the availability at school of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs increased between middle school/junior high school and high school. Students in the 6th through 8th grades were less likely than students in grades 9 and 10 or 11 and 12 to report that alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs were available at school. Reports of easy availability from students in the upper grades were two to three times those of students in the 6th through 8th grades (table 1 and figure 1). For example, less than 20 percent of the 6th through 8th graders reported easy availability of alcohol or drugs at school, while about 40 percent of the students in the upper grades reported easy access to alcohol and marijuana and 30 percent reported easy access to other drugs.
Students in public schools were twice as likely to report easy access to marijuana and other drugs when compared to their contemporaries in private schools; these differences occurred regardless of whether the public school was one to which the student was assigned or one that had been chosen by the family (table 1). For instance, about 15 percent of students in private schools reported easy availability of marijuana compared to 30 percent of students in assigned public schools and 34 percent in public schools of choice. Although the differences between private school students and public school students\' reports are not quite as striking, they also occur when access to alcohol is considered.

School size also