The role of family and peers on the risk of youth substance use have been widely highlighted in the literature, but in comparison, the role of school has not received as much attention. Results from this study suggest that the lifetime prevalence of cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana is higher in private schools than public schools. Current (past 30 day) cigarette and marijuana smoking was significantly more prevalent in private schools than public schools.
As a whole, waterpipe, alcohol, and cigarette were the three most frequently used drug during the past 30 days by students. In urban schools of the United States (US) alcohol (17.4%), marijuana (12.3%) and smoking tobacco (8.2%) were the three most frequently drugs in the past 30-day among the 10th Grade students . According to ESPAD report past 30-day use of cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana by European students was 28%, 57%, and 7%, respectively . Comparing to US and European high school students it seems that the prevalence of past month use of the abovementioned drugs is lower in our sample except for cigarette smoking in private schools.
Of the seven drugs studied, three drugs (i.e., cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana) showed higher lifetime use and two drugs (i.e., cigarette and marijuana) showed higher current use by students of private schools comparing to students of public schools. No drugs showed a higher prevalence in public schools than private schools. Luthar and Barkin showed higher rates of drinking to the point of intoxication among wealthier US students . Other relevant studies has shown that affluent 10th-graders reported higher use of alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes than their inner-city counterparts . An US nationally-representative study clarified elevated rates of drug abuse among affluent youth compared to national norms . Similar findings has been shown among Brazilian high school students . Meanwhile, our study revealed that private school students scored higher on drug abuse tendency than public school students to a degree that was nearly significant.
The Perceived prevalence of drug use by classmates showed roughly a similar trend. Perceived prevalence is an indicator of descriptive norm, which confers to a person's perception of how widespread a behavior occurs by his/her referent others . The higher the perceived prevalence of drug use by classmates, the higher the likelihood of engagement of high school students in drug use . Overall, it seems that the high school students overestimated the prevalence of all drugs, which is in line with relevant studies .
The question we have to answer is why students of private high schools showed higher prevalence of some drugs and why they regarded drug use more normatively comparing to students of public schools? Studies conducted to compare risk of substance use between economically advantaged youth and teenagers in the lower socioeconomic classes pointed to several possible reasons. First, affordability and accessibility of drugs is a well-established risk factor for drug abuse in adolescents . Second, parents from high-income families may have more laissez-faire attitudes toward alcohol and drug use . Third, considering negative correlation between religiosity and socioeconomic status, which is ubiquitous among various religions including Islam , the protective role of Islamic beliefs against alcohol use would be less prominent among affluent students than more deprived students. Fourth, with the prevailing culture of individualism, which is more prominent among affluent families the youth from such families “can experience as much isolation from parents as do those at the lowest extreme” . Fifth, parents with youth in private schools has higher expectations for studying hard . In such a stressful atmosphere, the likelihood of engagement in drug abuse is higher than normal situations .
Parents enroll their children in private schools, hoping to study in a healthy environment. This study showed that there is no guarantee against drug use in private school space. Therefore, “it is simplistic to think of “good” schools and “bad” schools in terms of drug use” . In the New Millennium, affluent youths are identified as an emerging at-risk group for substance use .