Let’s Talk: The Data Behind Teen Substance Use: Not “Everyone Is Doing It”

February 22, 2019

Our children may say to us, “everyone is doing it.” And with all the media attention on teen vaping  and the changing landscape around marijuana legalization, we might believe them.

However, the reality is that the majority of teens are making the healthy choice not to misuse alcohol and other drugs. According to the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey, 70% of Stillwater 11th graders report not using an alcohol in the past 30 days, and 74% report they have not used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. The Minnesota Student Survey (MNSS) is an accurate data source, passing validity and reliability tests. The anonymous statewide survey conducted to gain insights into the world of students and their experiences, is slated to be given this spring.

The MNSS and other surveys like the annual national Monitoring the Future Study, also show that adolescents dramatically overestimate peer substance use. And, if their perception of substance use is exaggerated, teens may make risky choices aligned with these inaccurate, unhealthy beliefs. Just because kids may think, "everyone is doing it" doesn't mean that is the reality.

As parents, caregivers and educators, we can use the social norms approach and emphasize that the majority of students in Minnesota and across the nation continue to make healthy choices around substance use.