INTRODUCTION: Students who attend high school under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs face multiple risks and are a concern to both public health professionals and educators. In the public health arena, early and frequent use of alcohol and other drugs predict vulnerability to heart disease, stroke and cancers. Educators have more immediate concerns about the ability of an intoxicated student to fully participate in an academic program. Whereas early experimentation with alcohol and other drugs is common during adolescence, use at school marks an escalation from experimentation and is a clear behavioral indication that there are more serious issues that could lead to addiction.
METHODS: This study explores the profiles of about 21,000 high school students from 50 schools in a south west state who completed the YRBSS and five school climate measures (Zullig, 2010;2014) as part of a large federal school safety study. Schools varied in the number of students who were involved in using drugs at school or who reported being under the influence at school.
FINDINGS: These variations in the number of students who were at school under the influence could not be predicted through school demographics of size, free/reduced lunch or percent minority. In an SEM analysis, the following student reported school climate factors were associated weakly with decreased prevalence of student use of alcohol and drugs on campus: School Connectedness, Student-Teacher Relationship , Order and Discipline ( r=.23,.26, and .27 respectively). A moderate effect (r=.31) was found between Academic Support and drug use on campus.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PREVENTION: Prevention efforts directed toward increasing certain factors in a school’s climate (connectedness, student/teacher relationships, order and discipline, academic support) could leverage a reduction in the number of students using during the school day.