Substance abuse–whether through alcohol, the misuse of prescription drugs, or other substances–was already a reality in America before the pandemic. While the majority of Americans characterize the amount of alcohol or substance use they’re seeing around them as ‘about the same as last year,’ 21% rate it as at least somewhat higher. All the data in this study has been rebased to exclude those whose community, peers, parents, spouse, or children do not consume alcohol or other substances.

Despite this overall appearance of consistency, CivicScience data shows 55% of Americans have some concern over the use of alcohol and other substances they are seeing their communities. Concern is also high for peers, friends, and siblings, as well as for one’s kids.

Where Change Has Occurred

According to the data, Americans 24 years old and under have seen an extreme decrease in substance usage in the past year. At the same time, they have seen an extreme increase (23%).

The polarity in responses from younger Americans is also noticeable in their reported concern over substance use they see among peers, friends, and siblings. Respondents 24 years old and younger report both the highest (although only slightly higher than 25-44 year olds) and lowest rates of concern out of any age group. This echoes the data above, suggesting that the youth may have the most extreme relationship with alcohol and other substances.

Concern Within the Family

Overall concern for a parent or a spouse floated around 20%. But overall concern for one’s children jumped to 32%. While the greatest concern for spouses comes from 45-64 year olds, the greatest concern for kids comes from those between 45 and 54.

Perhaps not surprisingly, overall concern for a parent’s consumption of alcohol and other substances is the lowest of them all, at just 13%. Where greater concern for parents does show up is among respondents under 44 years old, with slightly higher concern overall coming from those under 25.

Ultimately, Gen Z has seen the most extreme fluctuation in their observations about the use of alcohol and other substances from those around them, witnessing the most dramatic decrease while also reporting the highest increase in usage in the past year.