Drug Use in Middle School

Data shows every year kids are starting to use drugs and alcohol and younger ages. Middle school drug use is a more pressing matter for this generation than ever before. Get your middle schooler help immediately if they are using — casual abuse can easily turn into addiction.

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6 min read

Kids Are Using Drugs

As a mom, dad, sibling or guardian of a middle schooler, it may be hard to believe that your pre-teen could be using drugs or drinking underage. But data from the last decade shows rates of middle school substance abuse and addiction in kids as young as 11 or 12 years old have swelled across the United States. In 2015, more than 8% of 8th graders reported using illicit drugs.

Our kids are using younger and experimenting with harder drugs than ever before, and it’s not likely the trend will slow anytime soon. As their loved one, it’s your responsibility to educate your kids on drugs even before middle school begins.

A Look at the Stats

In the past year, the most commonly used drugs among 8th graders are:

  • Marijuana (11.7%)
  • Inhalants (5.3%)
  • Synthetic marijuana (3.3%)
  • Cough medicine (2%)
  • Tranquilizers (1.7%)
  • Adderall (1.3%) as a “study drug”
  • Hallucinogens (1.3%)
  • OxyContin (1%)
  • Vicodin (1%)
  • Cocaine (1%)
  • Ecstasy or MDMA (0.9%)
  • Ritalin (0.9%)

One percent may seem like a small number, but nationally it accounts for tens of thousands of boys and girls.

Middle School Alcohol Use

Teen boy addicted to alcoholRecent data shows teen alcohol abuse is a serious problem with middle schoolers. Boys are more likely to try drinking before girls, and the average age at first use is 11 years old, around the end of elementary school. Kids who drink in elementary school are three times more likely to drink alcohol in middle school. And based on a survey questioning 8th graders themselves, 9% reported underage drinking in the past month, 28% said they had tried alcohol at some point in their life, and 11% claim to have been drunk at least once.

Smoking Marijuana in Middle School

Teens smoking marijuana at schoolMarijuana remains the most popular drug among middle school children, consistent with what’s also most popular with high school students who use drugs. This makes sense, considering 7.5% of high school students surveyed said they first used pot before age 13. And they don’t just smoke — kids are finding more ways to use marijuana, including buying or selling edibles (e.g. cookies or brownies) laced with the drug.

  • 11.7% of 8th graders smoked pot in the last year
  • 6.5% of 8th graders smoked pot in the last month
  • 1.1% of 8th graders smoke pot on a daily or near-daily basis
  • 36.9% of 8th graders say it would be easy to get marijuana
  • 42% of 8th graders don’t believe that regular marijuana use is harmful

Those who smoke weed before age 15 are:

  • More likely to use cigarettes at some point
  • More than twice as likely to misuse a prescription drug
  • Two and a half times as likely to abuse other illicit drugs

Middle Schoolers and Inhalants

Inhalant drugs at schoolInhalants are household fixtures like gasoline, keyboard cleaner, paint thinner, markers and glue that give off noxious fumes that get people high. These drugs are extremely dangerous, but also readily available to younger children, which is perhaps why 11% of 8th graders surveyed said they have abused inhalants in their lifetime.

One state in the U.S. reports 3,800 inhalant-related ER visits each year, and it can be fatal even with a single use. Approximately 22% of kids who die from sniffing inhalants — also called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome — were first-time users. A 2007 study revealed that 17% of teens who started using drugs in the past year reported inhalants as the first drug they tried. Middle schoolers abuse these toxic, potentially fatal chemicals more than any other age group.

Middle School Over-the-Counter Drug Use

Children who abuse over-the-counter drugs like cough syrups and pills take the substances in high doses to get high. Around 48% of ER visits related to cough medicine abuse involve people aged 12–20. Similarly, 49% of American parents say anybody in the house can access home medicine cabinets where over-the-counter drugs are often stored. In addition, convenience stores will often sell basic medicines without an age limit.

Anabolic Steroids in Middle School

Steroids in schoolsYoung middle school athletes aspiring for success in high school may feel the pressure to “bulk up.” If puberty hasn’t hit yet, they may turn to steroids. According to one study, 2.7% of middle schoolers report using anabolic steroids. Among middle schoolers who take steroids:

  • 31% thought steroids would improve athletic performance
  • 23% felt steroids would make them look better
  • 23% knew someone else their age who took steroids
  • 38% were asked by someone to take steroids
  • 35% said they would take steroids again in the future
  • Only 54% believed steroids were bad for them

Drugs and School

While experimenting with drugs and alcohol can be a normal part of growing up, it’s also a very real threat for children. Casual drug abuse can turn into full-fledged addiction, regardless of the user’s age. Using drugs in middle school can also jeopardize a student’s academic career. Drug use often causes impaired thinking, decreased memory and learning disability — all of which can impede your child’s performance academically and lead to lower graduation rates, trouble getting into college and struggles to find employment and become financially independent.

Childhood substance abuse can also lead to a life of crime. Nearly half of middle schoolers arrested in 2009 were dependent on drugs or alcohol. The younger a child is when they begin abusing substances, the greater their chances of severe and chronic criminal offenses.

Does Your Middle Schooler Need Rehab?

If you notice symptoms of addiction in your middle schooler, you should take action right away. Start with a phone call to your family doctor, a trusted friend or our free drug hotline. We know it may be difficult to talk about — the stigma surrounding substance abuse makes “addiction” seem like a dirty word. But, in truth, addiction is a disease that is out of your or your child’s control. If they have a substance addiction, you need to look into treatment options now. The longer the addiction is allowed to fester, the harder it is to treat.

Our recovery advisors at TheRecoveryVillage.com are available to talk to you free of cost, and there are no obligations. We want to help you sort through the confusion of dealing with addiction in your family, and see your child come out sober on the other end. Whether you just want to talk, or need questions answered, or want assistance in finding a rehab facility, we can help you. Call today to begin your child’s healing.

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Drug Use in Middle School
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