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CDC Survey Measures Drug Use, School Violence & Suicides Among Teens

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the findings of its 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Thursday, measuring the rates of drug use, instances of violence and suicidal thoughts and actions among the nation’s teens.

Fewer teenagers are using drugs and having sex, according to the survey results, but there are still many areas of concern for the public health agency.

Drug Use

When it comes to drug use, the 2017 survey found less than 5 percent of the nation’s teens report ever having used drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and hallucinogens.

Less than 2 percent report ever having used heroin, although the rates for black male students are the highest at nearly 3 percent.

Prescription opioids, however, saw higher rates of abuse. Fourteen percent of teens report having taken drugs like Vicodin, OxyContin and Hydrocodone without a prescription or differently than how a doctor had prescribed.

Rates of misuse of prescription drugs were the highest among Hispanic teens when broken down by race and when reported by grade and sex, nearly 18 percent of 12th grade males reported misuse.

Violence at School

The report shows threats or acts of violence at schools have declined since 1993, when the tracking began, but when broken down by decade, they show a notable trend.

Between 1993 and 2003, the number of students reporting they had been threatened with or injured by a weapon on school property increased by 2 percent. From 2003 to 2017, that number then declined from its peak of 9.2 to 6 percent in 2017

The CDC reports the number of students who say they’ve experienced violence at school has largely remained the same since 2015.

Nearly 4 percent say they’ve carried a weapon on school property, which includes a gun, knife, or club.

Youth Suicide

Nearly one in seven American teens have seriously considered committing suicide in the past year.

About 14 percent of students have made a plan to commit suicide, and about 7 percent have made an attempt, the survey found.

The rates of attempt are highest among students in the LGBTQ community.

About 5 percent of teens who identify as heterosexual have attempted suicide, but 23 percent, or almost a quarter, of teens who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual have tried to take their own life.

The overall rate of teens attempting suicide has largely remained the same since the CDC began measuring the behavior in 1991.

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Ashton Marra covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program. Ashton can also be heard Sunday evenings as she brings you state headlines during NPR’s weekend edition of All Things Considered. She joined the news team in October of 2012.