The results of a survey conducted by the Monitoring Future organization this year showed that drug use rates among teens are some of the lowest ever registered.

The national survey was made in over 372 public schools across the country, asking a total of 45,473 students between 8th and 12th grade. This survey has been active since the year 1975, and according to lead researcher Lloyd Johnson, the rates are at their lower points regarding the last 40 years.

A Recent survey shows teens substance use is declining. Image Credit: Serenity Acres

The survey, in collaboration with the government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, also showed significant drops when comparing each drug use rate with the ones from the 1990s  and 2000s. When Johnson was asked about the possible reasons that explain these rates, he said that the investigation team has some hypotheses, but they are not entirely sure about their validity.

Dr. Nora Volkow, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said that these findings represent excellent news to the American community while explaining that the rates regarding hard drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, heroin, inhalants, are also at their lowest rates in history.

However, Samuel Ball, CEO of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University is not so surprised by the survey results. He stated that these numbers have been decaying for the last ten years, according to different studies.

Marijuana use is in decrease for third consecutive year

The new move in some states on the marijuana legalization has worried public authorities regarding a rise in the consumption of the drug, especially among teens. It´s been three years since the survey started recollecting full data concerning marijuana use, and also it´s been three years since the appearance of recreational cannabis stores in the country.

The only group that presented a slight rise regarding marijuana use was the high school seniors. The percentage went from 34.9 to 35.6. However, the number of 8th graders that claimed to have tried the drug at any moment is the lowest since 1993.

Also, synthetic marijuana use is dropping. When asking 8th graders if they had tried it, just 2.7 percent answered with a yes. The numbers from 10th graders and 12th graders also fell to 3.5 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively

Marijuana legalization doesn’t affect new smokers

The results demonstrate that the new legislations that approve marijuana don’t encourage teens on using the drug, and they haven’t had any influence on the using rates. The study showed that this rate stayed flat among 12th graders and had a significant decay regarding 8th graders and 10th graders.

According to Dr. Volkow, the new legislations could have changed the U.S. culture regarding marijuana use. She explains how the accessibility to the drug could mean to teens that cannabis is not so harmful, and automatically this could translate into more teens engaging with the drug.

Volkow admitted that these results have been very surprising to the entire National Institute on Drug Abuse authorities. Their predictions established a rise in marijuana use that was proportional with marijuana legalization. In the past November, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine voters approved marijuana for recreational adult use, while other several states voted for legislation regarding medical purposes.

The marijuana legalization supporters had shown themselves very pleased with the findings of this survey. The opponents of the new legislations have said that more states where cannabis is legal translates to more new smokers every year. However, the study proves the opposite.

“The best way to prevent teen marijuana use is education and regulation, not arresting responsible adult consumers and depriving sick people of medical marijuana,” Mason Tvert, the communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement.

Alcohol and Tobacco

According to Dr. Volkow, the drop recorded among alcohol and tobacco use are the most significant in years, especially when it comes to nicotine reductions. Back in 1991, more than 10 percent of American high school seniors said that they smoked a half a pack of cigarettes per day. However, this last survey showed that not even 2 percent of teens from that same group smokes that much.

Analysts have established that tobacco is commonly seen as a gateway to other drugs like marijuana and opioids. A constant decrease in the tobacco use could translate into a drop in the use of the other more hard drugs. Richard Miech, the incoming principal investigator of the study, says that while kids don’t smoke ever in their lives, we won´t be seeing those same kids progressing to other substances.

Regarding alcohol, the survey showed one of the most significant declines ever. In the year 2000 over half of American high school seniors answered that they had been drunk at least once, just 37 percent of teens from that same group responded the same when asked in this year.

Most researchers say that these results are reason enough to celebrate and that further investigations must be done to define why teens have this great behavior.

“That is gigantic good fortune. And really I don’t think we as a field or society more generally have spent as much time as we should have celebrating and reflecting on why today’s kids are so great in this regard.” Jonathan Caulkins, a drug policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, stated in an interview this Tuesday.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor