Ann Arbor, Michigan – According to the 2015 Monitoring the Future Survey, which has been conducted by the University of Michigan and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) since 1975, the use of most illicit drugs, alcohol and cigarettes among teenagers reached their lowest level in four decades.
The study, where 44,892 students from 382 public and private schools participated in, found that the use of illicit drugs including ecstasy, heroin, amphetamines and synthetic marijuana continued to decline among America’s 8th- , 10th- and 12th-graders, but Marijuana, the most widely used of the illicit drugs, did not show any significant change. Furthermore, use of prescription opioids continues decreasing. 4.4% of high school seniors reported non-medical use of Vicodin, down from a peak of 10.5% in 2003.
Alcohol use by teenagers continued declining in 2015. The rates are at 40% at the beginning of the year and 22% in the past 30 days, the lowest levels seen since the study began. 17.2% among seniors reported having five or more drinks in a row within the past two weeks. This represents a slight down from 19.4% last year and a significant down from peak rates in 1998 at 31.5%.
The same positive results applied for cigarette consumption; in fact they were so low than for the first time daily marijuana use exceeds daily tobacco cigarette use among 12th graders. Daily marijuana use for this group remained relatively stable at 6%, compared to 5.5% reporting daily cigarette smoking. This represents a 6.7% decline from 2014 results.
Among 10th graders, there has been a 54.9% drop in daily smoking in just five years, reported at just 3% this year compared to 6.6% five years ago. More than 75% of high school seniors said they view smoking a pack or more a day as harmful, compared to 51.3% reported when the survey began in 1975.
“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. 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.” Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA said.
Even though there has been encouraging results along the years public health experts are worried about teen marijuana use. Lead investigator Lloyd Johnston said it was a bit of a conundrum with the results. Johnston said this year’s survey included “a lot of good news” but the results also showed that “the problems of teen substance use and abuse are still far from going away.”