Teenage Drug Use:

Uncertain Linkages With Either Pregnancy or School Dropout

PEMD-91-3: Published: Jan 15, 1991. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined statistical data and scientific literature regarding the relationship between teen drug use and either pregnancy or dropping out of high school, focusing on: (1) trends in each of the three problems; and (2) research on how they may be linked.

GAO found that: (1) actual youth drug use did not rise between 1979 and 1988; (2) there were no major differences in drug use among youth of different racial and ethnic backgrounds; (3) although pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates for teenage women remained relatively stable since 1979, there were large disparities in all three rates for women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds; (4) overall high school dropout rates steadily decreased between 1979 and 1989 after increasing between 1968 and 1978, but minority group students were still more likely to drop out of school than nonminority students; (5) although six U.S. studies published since 1987 failed to show any relationships between teen drug use and either pregnancy or high school leaving, those studies had serious research limitations that restricted their usefulness; (6) a Canadian study showed that teenagers did not cite drug or alcohol use as a main reason for leaving school or engaging in sexual activity; and (7) some studies indicated that frequent drug users experienced a broad range of developmental difficulties and weak parenting as children.

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