Teen Drug Use Facts: Cocaine and Crack Statistics

Cocaine drug use among teens, while declining, is a major concern for parents. This is because young men and young women who use cocaine can become addicted and develop major health problems, including mental health issues like depression, as a consequence.

Cocaine Abuse Has Been Decreasing

Cocaine Crack Teens Annual Use Statistics

Statistics of teen cocaine use from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) stated in 2014 that nearly 913,000 Americans met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for dependence or abuse of cocaine and crack. Which means that they are showing signs of addiction.

This number is down from the estimated 1.4 million cases in the organization's 2008 report. The dramatic decrease in cocaine abuse began in 2009. College students, those between 18 and 25 years old were both the heaviest users in 2008 and the group with the biggest decrease by 2014.

Learning from the Past

The same organization's study showed in 1998 that "past month" and "past year" cocaine drug use peaks among the 18 to 20 age group, with 16- to 17-year-old teens having the highest statistics among youth at 3.6%.

These statistics point to the fact that first-time use of cocaine often happens at these ages. Teens who begin using the drug at this young age are not far from becoming addicted.

Though the overall statistics for abuse may be down from what it was two decades ago, parents, educators and other adults can learn from it. This data proves that teens who are nearing the end of high school have a higher likelihood of becoming addicts if they experiment with cocaine or crack cocaine before graduation.

The Scope of Teen Cocaine Use Today

Woman inhaling cocaine with rolled 100 dollar bill.
Piotr Powietrzynski/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Teen cocaine use has been declining since 2006.

The 2015 Monitoring the Future Study demonstrates the decline of teen cocaine use:

  • 8th Graders: .09% in 2015, down from 1.6% in 2012
  • 10 Graders: 1.8% in 2015, down from 2.2% in 2012
  • 12th Graders: 2.5% in 2015, down from 2.9% in 2012

Crack cocaine follows similar trends. In 2012, the statistics for use looked like this:

  • 1.0% of 8th graders
  • 1.0% of 10th graders
  • .4% of 12th graders

The 2015 study notes that crack cocaine use continues to decline among teenagers though the numbers are not significantly lower than those from 2012.

The Availability of Cocaine to Teens

Another interesting statistic in the Monitoring the Future Study is how easy it is for teens to get cocaine.

Among those surveyed, 29% of 12th graders in 2015 said that it would at least "fairly easy" for them to buy cocaine if they wanted to. Compare this to 59% in 1989 when reported use was almost the same as it is today.

The study points out that statistically, availability of cocaine does not necessarily correlate with the use of it among teens.

Do Teens See the Risks of Cocaine Use?

Young man snorting cocaine through rolled up banknote
MedicImage/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The 2015 Monitoring the Future Study study also shows that teenagers are well aware of the risks of cocaine and the majority of them disapprove of its use.

In the 2015 study, over 85% of teens in all three grade levels said that they do not approve of cocaine use. This statistic has remained steady (and increased slightly) since 1999.

The Perceived Risk

When it comes to the "perceived risk" that teens see in cocaine use, the numbers have actually declined since the mid-1980s. This means that fewer teens today see a problem with using cocaine one or two times.

There are two main reasons for this. According to the study, prior to 1986, the surveys did not distinguish between cocaine and crack cocaine. In 1987, the first survey that separated the two saw that 12th graders saw a significant risk in using crack (57%) and this figure has increased steadily since. Teens see crack cocaine as one of the most dangerous drugs.

The other factor that led to the wide disapproval of cocaine in the 1980s was the sudden and well-publicized death of NBA star Len Bias. Initial reports said his first-time use of cocaine caused his death. While that was later found to be false, it scared teens and the message stuck.

Today's teens may not know of Bias and have not had a similar first-time use death experience among their celebrities to associate in the same way.

From Chris Farley to Whitney Houston, there are a number of celebrity deaths that were attributed to cocaine (among other drugs and complications). Though their parents may be fans, none of the names really stand out among today's teen favorites.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2014 Survey

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH-2008)

  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Monitoring the Future 2015 Survey Results

  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Monitoring the Future 2012 Survey Results