Objective: Epidemiological studies of illegal drug use in adolescents have examined frequency of drug use; a few have examined diagnoses or symptoms of drug abuse or dependence. This study examined problem use of illegal drugs, about which very little is known.
Method: Adolescents (879 boys and 929 girls), mean age of 15.7 years, representative of the province of Québec, Canada, were asked about problem use of alcohol and illegal drugs.
Results: Almost one third had used illegal drugs more than 5 times. Of this group, more than 70% reported going to school high on drugs, and the majority reported playing sports while high and using drugs in the morning. In these drugs users, 94% of the boys and 85% of the girls reported at least 1 problem and two thirds of the boys and more than half of the girls reported 3 or more problems from illegal drugs. Marijuana was used by almost all subjects at the time of maximal drug use; hallucinogens were the second most commonly used drug. Alcohol was used more frequently than illegal drugs, but problem use was less common.
Conclusions: Problem drug use is the norm among the large minority who use illegal drugs more than a few times, and drug use is commonly incorporated into 2 major routine activities of teenagers--school and sports.