The Monitoring the Future study, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and designed and conducted by the University of Michigan, has been polling teens since 1975. Its most recent survey reports that alcohol and cigarette use by students in grades 8, 10, and 12 are at their lowest point since the project has been collecting the data. The good news is offset by a finding of high rates of abuse in other tobacco products, marijuana, and prescription drugs.
Marijuana Use Rising
Marijuana use among teens rose in 2011 for the fourth straight year — a sharp contrast to the considerable decline that had occurred in the preceding decade. Daily marijuana use is now at a 30-year peak level among high school seniors.
“Synthetic marijuana,” which until earlier this year was legally sold and goes by such names as “K2” and “spice,” was added to the study’s coverage in 2011; one in every nine high school seniors (11.4%) reported using that drug in the prior 12 months.
Energy Drinks Use Highest Among Younger Teens
Energy drinks (such as Red Bull, Monster, and Reload) are sold legally and advertised to boost energy. They contain stimulants, usually caffeine, and sometimes other stimulants, as well as sugar.
Energy drinks are being consumed by about one third of teens, with use highest among younger teens. In 2011, use of one or more drinks per day was 18% for 8th graders, 11% for 10th graders, and 10% for 12th grades; these rates are down some from 2010 in all three grades, so it appears that use is no longer growing.
Illicit Drugs Declining in Use
Drugs showing some evidence of declines in use this year include: inhalants, cocaine powder, crack cocaine, the narcotic drug Vicodin, the stimulant drug Adderall, sedatives, tranquilizers, and over-the-counter cough and cold medicines used to get high.
Illicit Drugs Holding Steady (index available only for 12th graders)
Quite a number of drugs held fairly steady this year. These include use of any illicit drug (other than marijuana), inhalants, LSD, heroin (used with and without a needle), OxyContin, amphetamines, Ritalin, methamphetamine, crystal methamphetamine, steroids, and use of any prescription drug without medical supervision.
Alcohol Use Declining
In general there has been a long-term decline in the use of alcohol by teens going back to the 1980s. The early- to mid-1990s saw a pause in this decline as their alcohol use rose for several years along with the use of cigarettes and many of the illicit drugs. However, a sustained further decline resumed in the latter half of the 1990s (similar to changes in use of cigarettes and a number of illegal drugs), reaching historically low levels in 2011.
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PARENTS: Keep informed. Pay attention. Stay attuned to changes in mood and school performance. Keep the lines of communication open for discussing your views and concerns.