A national survey of students in U.S. middle schools and high schools shows some important improvements in levels of substance use, according to a news release. Both alcohol and cigarette use in 2014 are at their lowest points since the study began in 1975, according to a news release, and a number of illicit drugs also showed declines.
These findings come from the University of Michigans Monitoring the Future study, which tracks trends in substance use among students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades. Each year the national study surveys 40,000 to 50,000 students in about 400 secondary schools throughout the United States.
Alcohol use by the nations teens declined in 2014. All three grades showed a decline in the proportion of students reporting any alcohol use in the 12 months before the survey; the three grades combined dropped from 43% to 41%.
Since the recent peak rate of 61% in 1997, there has been a fairly steady downward march in alcohol use among adolescents, Lloyd Johnston, the studys principal investigator, said in the release. The proportion of teens reporting any alcohol use in the prior year has fallen by about a third.
The proportion of teens who report binge drinking fell to 12% for the three grades combined down from a recent high of 22% in 1997. While this is an important improvement, still roughly one in five (19%) 12th-graders report binge drinking at least once in the previous two weeks, according to the release, which also said peer disapproval of binge drinking and declines in availability may be contributing factors to the drops in teen drinking.
Cigarette smoking also dropped for the three grades combined; 28% reported any smoking in the previous month in 1997, the recent peak year, but that rate was down to 8% in 2014.
As with alcohol, there has been a substantial reduction in the proportion of students who say cigarettes are easy for them to get, and this decline continued into 2014. Increasing disapproval of smoking also has accompanied the decline in use, as well as an increased perception that smoking carries a great risk for the user.
Other notable findings from the study include:
The proportion of 12th-graders reporting use of synthetic marijuana in the previous 12 months fell from 11%, when it was first included in the survey in 2011, to 6% in 2014.
Bath Salts, another class of synthetic drugs sold over-the-counter, also have declined in use, with the percentages of students in all three grades now down to less than 1%.
Marijuana use, after five years of increasing among teens, actually declined slightly in 2014, with use in the previous 12 months declining from 26% to 24% for the three grades combined.
Current daily or near-daily marijuana use defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the previous 30 days also declined in 2014. About one in every 17 high school seniors in 2014 (5.8%) is a current daily or near-daily marijuana user, which is down from 6.5% in 2013.
Ecstasy use showed a statistically significant decline in 2014. For the three grades combined use in the previous 12 months dropped from 2.8% in 2013 to 2.2% in 2014. In 2001, the peak year of use, the rate was 6%.
Prescription drug misuse includes use of narcotics, sedatives, tranquilizers and amphetamines declined in 12th-graders, who say they used one or more of these prescription drugs in the 12 months before the survey. The 2013 rate of 16% dropped to 14% in 2014.
Narcotic drugs other than heroin by 12th-graders dropped from 7% in 2013 to 6% in 2014.
Abuse of cough and cold medicines, which usually contain the drug dextromethorphan, has been falling among teens since 2006 and declined significantly again in 2014 to 3.2% for the three grades combined.
For more survey results, go to http://ns.umich.edu/new/multimedia/videos/22574-use-of-alcohol-cigarettes-number-of-illicit-drugs-declines-among-u-s-teens