Teen Prescription Abuse, Cigarette and Alcohol Use Trends Down
Jim Liebelt Jim Liebelt's Blog
- 2014 Dec 18
*The following is excerpted from an online article from the National Institute of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Use of cigarettes, alcohol, and abuse of prescription pain relievers among teens has declined since 2013 while marijuana use rates were stable, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, released today by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). However, use of e-cigarettes, measured in the report for the first time, is high.
These 2014 results are part of an overall two-decade trend among the nation’s youth. The MTF survey measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, is funded by NIDA, and is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. NIDA is part of the National Institutes of Health.
“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.”
Daily cigarette smoking has decreased markedly over the past five years (almost 50 percent) across all grades. For eighth graders, it dropped to 1.4 percent compared to 2.7 percent five years ago. Among 10th graders, it dropped to 3.2 percent compared to 6.3 percent five years ago. Among high school seniors, it dropped to 6.7 percent, down from 8.5 percent last year and 11.2 percent five years ago.
Alcohol use continues its gradual decline in all grades. Eighth, 10th and 12th graders reported past month use of 9.0, 23.5 and 37.4 percent respectively, compared to 10.2, 25.7, and 39.2 percent last year. This represents a significant drop in the past five years, with rates at 14.9 percent, 30.4 percent and 43.5 percent in 2009. There was a significant drop in binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row in the last two weeks) in 2014 among high school seniors, which is now under 20 percent. The most recent peak rate of binge drinking for seniors was in 1998 at 31.5 percent.
The findings related to prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse continued positive downward trends in 2014. 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. There was also a drop in the past year use of cough/cold medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM) among eighth graders, with only 2 percent using them for non-medical reasons, down from 3.8 percent five years ago. By contrast, past year non-medical use of the stimulant Adderall (often prescribed for ADHD) remained relatively steady, at 6.8 percent for high school seniors. The survey continues to show that most teens get these medicines from friends or relatives and to a lesser degree from their own prescriptions.
The 2014 survey showed that past month use of smoked marijuana remained steady among eighth graders at 6.5 percent, 10th graders at 16.6 percent and 12th graders at 21.2 percent. Close to 6 percent of 12th graders report daily use of marijuana. This survey also revealed that, in 2014, 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) versus 26 percent in non-medical marijuana states.
However, 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. By contrast, 56.7 percent of seniors say they disapprove of occasional marijuana smoking. Among eighth graders, there was a drop in perceived availability, with 36.9 percent saying it is easy to get marijuana, compared to last year’s 39.1 percent. Eighty-one percent of seniors say it is easy to get marijuana.
Measured for the first time in the MTF survey this year, the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) is high among teens. Past-month use by eighth graders is 8.7 percent, for 10th graders is 16.2 percent, and for 12th graders is 17.1 percent. NIDA is conducting research into use patterns and health effects of e-cigarettes.
Overall, 41,551 students from 377 public and private schools participated in this year's MTF survey. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th graders nationwide. Eighth and 10th graders were added to the survey in 1991. Survey participants generally report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. Questions are also asked about daily cigarette and marijuana use.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse