Substance abuse is a major issue for developed European and North American countries, having a social, medical, legal, political, and economic impact on virtually all people, collectively and individually (Alvarez, Queipo, Del Rio, & Garcia, 1992). Efforts continue toward a better understanding of the problems of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use in societies around the world, although the exact nature of the problem often differs between countries and even between regions within countries. Numerous studies on substance abuse have been and continue to be done, with many focusing on behaviors and/or trends in sub-groups of a population. One such group is youth, a subgroup which has been the focus of considerable public, political, and media attention for more than two decades (Smith & Nutbeam, 1992). Extensive research has been conducted by Johnston, Bachman, & O'Malley (1988), and their study of substance abuse patterns by high school seniors has become a reference source in substance abuse literature. Other studies conducted, although generally on a smaller scale, include Forshund and Gustafson (1970), Lassey and Carlson (1980), Huba, Wingard, and Bentler (1979), Oetting and Beauvais (1981), and Benson, Wood, Johnson, Elkin, & Mills, (1983).
A second subgroup often studied is athletes at all levels of competition. Substance abuse by athletes gained initial notoriety in the early 1960s when use of amphetamines and steroids was reported in Olympic athletes (Murray, 1987). It is important to emphasize that a concern with drugs in sports is not narrowly focused on steroids, but is broad in scope. Major sports organizations have taken steps to address the drug issue. In the fall of 1986 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) implemented a mandatory drug-testing policy to all athletes competing in NCAA championship tournaments (NCAA News, 1986). Other collegiate/university organizational bodies, as well as professional sports organizations, followed with testing programs of their own (Duda, 1986).
Except for studies involving a limited number of colleges and universities, there is little data on substance abuse by young persons in organized athletics (Bell & Doege, 1987). An early study was done in the state of Minnesota (Namakkal, 1979), but this data is over a decade old and mostly of historical value. Despite a broad concern for all drugs of abuse, some studies of youthful athletes have focused on specific drugs such as steroids (Buckley et al., 1988; Dyment, 1987; Johnson, Jay, Shoup, & Rickert, 1989; Swenson, McKeag, & Hough, 1988).
The purpose of this study was threefold: through observations and perceptions of high school athletic directors/coaches (ADs) in the state of North Carolina, (1) to broadly examine substance abuse of high school student-athletes; (2) make comparisons of substance abuse between North Carolina student-athletes (NCSAs) and students comprising the North Carolina general student body (NCGSB); and (3) make, when possible, comparisons of substance abuse between NCSAs and student-athletes who were the subjects of a national survey of high school coaches done for the National Federation of State High School Associations (1991) by the George H. Gallup International Institute (hereafter referred to as Gallup Survey of High School Coaches (GSHSCs)). The Gallup survey was done as a pro-bono service for the National Federation of State High School Associations and TARGET, a service component of the National Federation that has a long-term commitment to help youth cope with tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. Some comparisons were also made with the findings of a survey of alcohol and other drug use patterns among a sample of 10,883 public school students of North Carolina in grades 7-12 conducted by the Alcohol and Drug Defense (ADD) Section, Division of Student Services, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (1991; 1989; 1987a, 1987b) and a survey of alcohol and other drug use patterns among North Carolina high school student-athletes (Shields, 1988). …