Perceived Availability of Drugs Among Young People in the US
" Substantial differences were found in perceived availability of the various drugs. The percentage of 12th graders reporting it would be fairly easy or easy to get a drug varied from 16% or less for heroin and PCP to above 80% for alcohol, vaping devices, and an e-liquid with nicotine for vaping.
" In general, the more widely used drugs are reported to be available by higher proportions of the age group, as would be expected (see Tables 9-7, 9 8, and 9-9). The substances with the highest levels of use in 2019, such as marijuana, alcohol, and e-liquids for vaping, also place in the top three in terms of perceived availability.
" Older age groups generally perceive drugs to be more available. For example, in 2019, 35% of 8th graders said marijuana would be fairly easy or very easy to get (which we refer to as “readily available”), versus 66% of 10th graders and 78% of 12th graders. In fact, compared to 8th graders, the proportions of 12th graders indicating that drugs are available to them are two to four times as high for other illicit drugs included in the study. (An exception is tranquilizers, which are perceived to be about equally available in 8th and 12th grades, and have highest perceived availability in 10th grade.)
" Higher availability among both the more widely used drugs and also older age groups is consistent with the notion that availability is largely attained through friendship circles. (Friends clearly are the leading source through which 12th graders obtain prescription drugs, as discussed above.) The differences among age groups may also reflect less willingness and/or motivation on the part of those who deal drugs to establish contact with younger adolescents.
" Marijuana appears to be readily available to the great majority of 12th graders; in 2019, 78% reported that they think it would be very easy or fairly easy to get – far higher than the proportion who reported ever having used it (44%). Marijuana has the highest availability level of all illicit substances in this grade.
" There is a considerable drop in availability after marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes, and vaping; the next most readily available class of drugs for 12th graders is amphetamines, with 39% saying these drugs would be very or fairly easy to get, followed by narcotics other than heroin (31%).
" Between 16% and 30% of 12th graders perceived the following as readily available: MDMA (ecstasy, Molly) (24%), hallucinogens other than LSD (30%), cocaine (24%), LSD (28%), sedatives (barbiturates) (24%), cocaine powder (20%), steroids (19%), heroin (16%), and crack (17%).
" Crystal methamphetamine (ice), tranquilizers, and PCP were reported as readily available by smaller proportions of 12th graders in 2019 (12%, 15%, and 11%, respectively).
" In 8th grade the percentage who reported they could fairly or very easily get a vaping device was 49% and for e-liquids with nicotine it was 46%. The respective availability levels in 10th grade were 68% and 65%, and in 12th grade they were 83% and 82%.
" The availability of a JUUL vaping device was asked for the first time of 8th and 10th grade students in 2019. Levels of availability were nearly identical for the more general category of a “vaping device.” In 8th grade the availability of JUUL as compared to a vaping device was 52% and 49%, respectively, and in 10th grade it was 69% and 68%, respectively. In both grades JUUL and vaping devices had higher availability levels than cigarettes.
" In 2019, 43% of 8th graders, 58% of 10th graders, and 75% of 12th graders thought that cigarettes would be fairly easy or very easy for them to get if they wanted some.
" The great majority of teens see alcohol as readily available: In 2019, 53% of 8th graders, 69% of 10th graders, and 84% of 12th graders said it would be fairly easy or very easy to get.
" Drug availability levels are lowest in 8th grade. Even so, marijuana was described as readily available by 35% of 8th graders in 2019.
" Because many inhalants – such as glues, butane, and aerosols – are universally available, we do not ask about their availability. See Table 9-9 for the full list of drugs included in the questions for 12th graders; a few of these drugs were not asked of the younger students (see Tables 9-7 and 9-8)."
Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., & Patrick, M. E. (2020). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2019: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.