Malignant Neglect: Substance Abuse and America’s Schools

Drugs in schools are an enormous problem in the U.S., with fatal consequences. This report is a comprehensive analysis of available data on substance use in our schools and among students. It is designed to clarify how tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use affect schools and to suggest what it will take to make our schools and our children substance-free.

Key Takeaways

Each student’s choice of whether or not to use substances is related to two factors: availability and perception of risk. The more available tobacco, alcohol and other substances are, the more likely students are to use them. Further, students are more likely to use substances when they believe that the harm associated with their use is low. Additional findings include the following:


For schools:


For parents:


For government policy:

Research Methods

The data in this report was based on focus groups and national surveys with teens, parents, teachers, and school administrators; an analysis of national data related to youth substance use; a panel of experts in education and psychology; an examination of school-based programs designed to prevent and treat substance use; and a review of more than 1,000 publications related to substance use and education.