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Surveys of American and European teenagers have found dramatic differences between the two groups’ substance use. While American teens smoke and drink less than their European peers, they are more likely to use illegal drugs.

The results come from coordinated school surveys about substance use that include more than 100,000 students around Europe. They are largely modeled on the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey in the United States, making comparisons possible between the American and European results.

The United States had the second lowest proportion of students who used alcohol and tobacco, compared with teens in 36 European countries, HealthCanal reports. Among American students, 27 percent drank alcohol in the month before the survey. The average rate in Europe was 57 percent. Twelve percent of American students smoked cigarettes in the month before the survey, compared with an average of 28 percent in Europe.

Eighteen percent of American teens reported using marijuana or hashish in the previous month, compared with an average of 7 percent among European teens. American teens reported the highest level of marijuana availability. The U.S. had the lowest proportion of teens who associated use of marijuana with great risk, according to Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the American surveys.

American teens were more likely than European students to have tried any illicit drugs other than marijuana, including hallucinogens, Ecstasy and amphetamines.

“Clearly the U.S. has attained relatively low rates of use for cigarettes and alcohol, though not as low as we would like,” Johnston said in a news release. “But the level of illicit drug use by adolescents is still exceptional here.”


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