If you read the newspaper or watch the evening news, you could be forgiven for thinking that teen drug use is an epidemic. However, new data on teen drug use in 2014 continues a two decade-long decline in the abuse of legal and illegal drugs among teens.
The use of marijuana remained stable but the use of cigarettes, alcohol and abuse of prescription pain relievers among teens has declined since 2013, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIDA is part of the National Institutions of Health (NIH). Use of e-cigarettes, measured in the report for the first time, was high.
The decline in drugs use is part of an overall two-decade trend among US youth. The MTF study measures drug use and attitudes amongst eighth, 10th and 12th graders.
“With the rates of many drugs decreasing, and the rates of marijuana use appearing to level off, it is possible that prevention efforts are having an effect,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “It is now more important than ever for the public health community to continue to educate teens, parents, teachers, community leaders, the media and health care providers about the specific harms of drug use among teens, whose brains are still developing.”
“This year’s Monitoring the Future data show promising signs on the declining rates of adolescent substance use, and reinforce the need to continue efforts on prevention, treatment, and recovery,” said National Drug Control Policy Acting Director Michael Botticelli. “The Obama administration remains steadfast in its commitment to reduce drug use and its consequences – and we know that the best way to reduce drug use is to prevent it from ever starting. I encourage parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors to have a conversation with a young person in their lives about making the healthy decisions that will keep them on a path toward a successful future.”
The 2014 survey showed that 6.5 percent of eighth graders, 16.6 percent of 10th graders, and 21.2 percent of 12th graders had used marijuana in the past month. Almost 6 percent of 12th graders reported daily use of marijuana. The survey also showed that in states with medical marijuana laws, 40 percent of 12th graders who reported using marijuana in the past year said they had consumed marijuana in food products (edibles) compared to just 26 percent in states without medical marijuana.
The majority of high school seniors do not think occasional marijuana smoking is harmful, with only 16.4 percent saying occasional use puts the user at great risk, compared to 27.4 percent five years ago. Eighty-one percent of high school seniors say it is easy to get marijuana.
Past year use of the opioid pain reliever Vicodin showed a significant five-year drop, with 4.8 percent of 12th graders using Vicodin for non-medical reasons, half of what it was just five years ago, at 9.7 percent.
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