Growing Number of Teenagers Think Getting Heroin Is ‘Probably Impossible’
Despite reports about the increase in heroin use, more teens believed it was “probably
impossible” to get heroin in 2014 than in 2002, according to a Saint Louis University
“Overall it’s cautious good news,” said Michael Vaughn, Ph.D., professor of social work at Saint Louis University and the lead author of
the paper. “It’s a nuanced picture. The use of heroin is still a problem, but what
you see in the news is generally more applicable to adults and doesn’t apply uniformly
across all populations. ”
Vaughn examined the records of more than 230,450 adolescents between ages 12 and 17,
which were collected by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to estimate substance use and related behaviors. He found that in 2014, nearly 50
percent of the adolescents thought it was “probably impossible” to acquire heroin,
compared to about 39 percent in 2002.
At the same time, the number of adolescents who thought it was easy to get heroin
also declined between 2002 and 2014. About 6 percent in 2014 said it was “fairly easy”
versus more than 10 percent in 2002; and 3 percent said it was “very easy” in 2014,
compared to 5 percent in 2002.
Vaughn said he was not necessarily surprised by the findings, which support national
trends that show teen use of most drugs other than marijuana is either declining or
staying the same.
“Overall the trend data suggests a changing landscape with respect to heroin access
among adolescents that converges with recent findings on other illicit drugs,” Vaughn
“It’s not this constantly escalating increase in problem behavior among youth. The
public’s view of adolescent drug use in general is kids are exposed to all kinds of
drugs and are using them more and more. But that’s not really true.”
Christopher P. Salas-Wright of Boston University and Sehun Oh of the University of
Texas at Austin also are authors of the paper, which is in press and available in the Feb. 8 online edition of Preventive Medicine.
The Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice is the only
academic unit of its kind, studying social, environmental and physical influences
that together determine the health and well-being of people and communities. It also
is the only accredited school or college of public health among nearly 250 Catholic
institutions of higher education in the United States.
Guided by a mission of social justice and focus on finding innovative and collaborative
solutions for complex health problems, the College offers nationally recognized programs
in public health, social work, health administration, applied behavior analysis, and
criminology and criminal justice.