updated 8/16/2007 3:16:27 AM ET 2007-08-16T07:16:27

Teenagers say drug problems at school are getting worse, and parents express doubts about ever making such schools drug free, a new study says.

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The percentage of teens who say they attend high schools with drug problems has increased from 44 percent to 61 percent since 2002, and the percentage in middle schools has increased from 19 percent to 31 percent, according to the survey to be released Thursday by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

Four in five teens in high school told researchers they have witnessed the use, sale or possession of illegal drugs on high school grounds, or seen someone who was drunk or high on campus.

Some 13 percent of teens said they had tried marijuana, and 4 percent said they had used it in the past month. Such survey results are often understated because respondents are hesitant to admit such drug use.

The survey also found:

  • About six in 10 parents of teens at schools with a drug problem say they believe the goal of making that school drug free is unrealistic.
  • Most parents, 86 percent, say drinking is a big part of the college experience, but only 29 percent think their own teens will do a lot of drinking in college.
  • Students who consider themselves popular were more likely to use drugs, drink or smoke than students who do not view themselves as popular.

A look at how heroin, cocaine and other drugs affect the bodyThe survey found 24 percent of teens named drugs as their number one concern, down from 32 percent who listed it as a top concern in 1995.

“It has become such a commonplace experience for teens that their concern about it has come down,” said Joseph Califano, the center’s chairman and president. We’ve reached a point now in America’s high schools where getting high, getting drunk are so common — drugs are now imbedded in the high school experience.

“And despair and denial characterize the parents’ attitudes,” he said.

The survey of 1,063 teens from 12 to 17 years old and 550 parents was conducted from April 2 to May 13 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for the teen sample and 4 percentage points for the parents.

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