SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Drug use among teens booked into San Diego Juvenile Hall reached its highest rate since 2000, with 62% of those interviewed testing positive for an illicit substance last year, up 4% from the previous year, according to a report released Monday.
According to the San Diego Association of Governments, 57% of 109 juveniles interviewed in 2019 tested positive for marijuana, also the highest rate since 2000 and an increase of 2% compared to 2018.
Ninety-two percent of interviewees reported trying marijuana, compared to 86% for alcohol and 70% for tobacco, according to the SANDAG report. Overall, 93% of juveniles reported trying some kind of illicit substance.
Nearly 60% of respondents also said marijuana was the first substance they had tried, compared to 27% for alcohol and 12% for tobacco.
Overall, those who had used marijuana, alcohol and tobacco reported getting started at or before age 13 1/2, on average.
Just over three-quarters of the youth interviewees reported having tried vaping, and 49% reported vaping at school. The most commonly used substances were flavored nicotine, 90%, marijuana/THC, 73%, and non-flavored nicotine, 26%.
When asked to rank how harmful they thought specific drugs were on a four-point scale, 17% of respondents said marijuana was “very bad” or “extremely bad”; 58% thought tobacco was “very bad” or “extremely bad” and 37% said alcohol belonged in those categories.
Nearly 60% reported that they did not view vaping as harmful and 39% thought vaping was less harmful than smoking cigarettes.
Among other findings:
- 91% of those interviewed said it was easy, or very easy, to obtain marijuana; 79% of those interviewed said the same about alcohol and 93% said the same of tobacco;
- 42% reported abusing prescription or over-the-counter drugs, with 81% of those reporting that they had used tranquilizers, such as Xanax, and 50% saying they had tried codeine;
- 50% reported prescription drugs were “very easy” or “easy” to obtain, down from 70% in 2017; and
- 11% of interviewees tested positive for methamphetamine, up from 10% in 2018.