Drug and Alcohol Abuse in U.S. Teens: A Sociological Analysis

Does the location one grows up in determine how one acts? Does it effect the sort of learned behaviors one perceives as the norm? As norms change, can they effect how one behaves? These are the sort of questions one is to ask when they dig into sociology, into the underlying interactions that effect the structure and function of society. As a sociologist one has to narrow one’s field of vision so that one’s choice of study is survey-able.

In society today, the use of drugs and alcohol by teens has been a source of outcry for parent organizations and for school systems. This has spurred movements across the country to conduct anti-drug and alcohol campaigns such as D.A.R.E, which aim to educate young students about the dangers of doing drugs and portray to them the realities of addiction through public speaking. But while the rate of drug and alcohol abuse has diminished, is that effected by where one is located in the United States? That is what I aim to find out.

Using data collected from “Kids Count Data Center: a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation” an organization dedicated to the health and care of young children, I have examined the annual trends of four states (selected at random by my roommate, Autumn): Alaska, California, Kansas, and New York. The data displayed below shows the annual total of teens ages 12 to 17 from the four states, that had abused alcohol or drugs at least once during the span of a year.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse of Teens ages 12 to 17:         Percentage of Teens Per State
Alcohol and Drug Abuse of Teens ages 12 to 17:              Number of Teens Per State

Taking into account the type of setting that exists in each state, the total number of people, and geographic location, these numbers have been improving. But, why?

Taking into the account of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, which play host to organizations and groups dedicated to spreading the word against drug abuse (one such example being the D.A.R.E. Organizations Facebook Page),  once can assume that the role social media has nowadays in the lives of teens plays an important role in their views in such matters, and may attribute to the slight decrease in the percentage of teens abusing harmful substances.

States with higher populations, specifically those with more urban settings are expected to have a higher number of teens using drugs or alcohol, due to the sheer number of residents lining there. So the larger totals are not surprising, the same can be said about Alaska, as their lower population results in fewer teens using these substances.

The teen drug and alcohol abuse rates are decreasing now more rapidly than ever, with the average percentage of teens using in these four states being 5% as of 2014. Unfortunately, more recent data is not available for viewing. This causes some issue, as times are changing and the impact of media is growing, hopefully increasing awareness of abuse.

Other factors that may play a part in the abuse of alcohol and drugs may include: the type of home one was raised in, the influence of peers, learned behaviors from family members, and many others. These more personal, base level, interactions would be more difficult to study, as that would mean having to take information from a much smaller sample size for proper evaluation. However, one cannot deny that these interactions do play a role in behaviors such as these.

While the number of teens using drugs and alcohol may be less now than they were fifteen years ago, drug abuse and alcohol abuse are still an issue in many communities, and for many it becomes an addiction that they cannot break free of. Thus, whether it be by means such as social media or with the help of speakers from groups such as D.A.R.E., informing the youth of the dangers tied to use is as important now as it is then.


“Drug Abuse Resistance Education.” Facebook. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.

Location, By. “Teens Ages 12 to 17 Who Abused Alcohol or Drugs in the past Year | KIDS COUNT Data Center.” Teens Ages 12 to 17 Who Abused Alcohol or Drugs in the past Year | KIDS COUNT Data Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.

“Tables Generator.” Create LaTeX Tables Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.


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