Publication Date

March 2015


Adolescent substance use in U.S. rural communities is now equal to or greater than urban use for many substances (Shears, Edwards, & Stanley, 2006). Despite this fact, a great deal of research and preventative strategies focuses on urban and suburban populations. To provide a better understanding of alcohol and drug use among adolescents in rural contexts, we conducted an analysis of 636 Georgia students at a rural high school. We also analyzed data regarding 61 teachers and administrators at this high school. Our data analysis reveals four primary findings. First, consistent with previous research in other contexts (Aas and Klepp 1992; Perkins, Haines, and Rice 2005), we find that rural high school students overestimate their classmates’ usage. Second, we find considerable variation in use between freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Third, we find differences between male and female students regarding their actual drug use as well as their perceptions of friends and classmates’ use. Fourth, we find that teachers and administrators overestimate students’ use. Based on these findings, we suggest that the best approach to deter substance use and abuse is not a “blanket” approach for all four grades, but rather a grade-specific approach that takes gender into consideration.