Teen drug and tobacco use may be on the downswing, according to results of a National Institutes of Health survey. NIH’s 2015 Monitoring the Future survey, released Dec. 16, shows a decrease among several substances, including cigarettes, alcohol, prescription opioid pain relievers and synthetic marijuana. Researchers surveyed 44,892 eighth, 10th, and 12th graders from 382 public and private schools nationwide. Students were asked about their drug use behavior across three time periods, including lifetime, past year and past month, with questions also being asked about daily cigarette and marijuana use, according to the report. The survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of NIH.
More than 75% of teens surveyed said they thought smoking a pack of cigarettes or more per day was harmful — a significant jump from the 51.3% who held that view in 1975, according to the survey. At the same time though, rates of other tobacco products are concerning, with 19.8% of high school seniors saying they had used hookahs and smoked small cigars in the past year. E-cigarette use also is a concern because the products are unregulated and limited data exist on what chemicals teens are smoking, the report said. Survey results showed only about 20% of teens said they were using nicotine and about 13% of eighth graders who used e-cigarettes didn’t know what was in the devices.
Although tobacco use is down among teens, the survey found daily marijuana use among 12th graders remained stable at 6% compared with 5.5% of students reporting daily cigarette smoking, a slight drop from 6.7% in 2014, the report said. Daily marijuana use among 12th graders exceeded daily tobacco cigarette, use, researchers found. Fewer high school seniors are viewing marijuana use as risky, according to the survey, with 31.9% of seniors saying it was harmful — down from 36.1% in 2014.
The survey also revealed that nonmedical use of the prescription drug Adderall, given for ADHD, remains high at 7.5% among 12th graders. Still, use of prescription opioids is decreasing. Just 4.4% of high school seniors reported nonmedical use of Vicodin in 2015, the survey stated. Among teens who are abusing prescription opioids, most said they got them from friends or family members, according to the survey. Alarmingly though, one-third of teens reported getting the drugs from their own prescriptions, which researchers said underscores the need to monitor teens taking opioids and evaluate prescribing practices.
“We are heartened to see that most illicit drug use is not increasing, non-medical use of prescription opioids is decreasing, and there is improvement in alcohol and cigarette use rates,” Nora D. Volkow, MD, director of NIDA said in an NIH news release. “However, continued areas of concern are the high rate of daily marijuana smoking seen among high school students, because of marijuana’s potential deleterious effects on the developing brains of teenagers, and the high rates of overall tobacco products and nicotine containing e-cigarettes usage.”
Alcohol use is on a downward trend among teens. The number of high school seniors saying they participated in binge drinking — described as having five or more drinks in a row within the past two weeks — is 17.2%. That number is down from the 19.4% who said they binge drank in 2014 and significantly lower from a peak rate of 31.5% in 1998.
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