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Survey finds teen drug use declining – except for pot
A nationwide survey has found that – except for pot/marijuana – the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco among American high school students has reached the lowest levels in decades.
The annual survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), asked 8th, 10th, and 12th graders about their drug and alcohol use over the past month and past year.
This year’s results among all three grade levels were “encouraging,” the survey says. Apart from the surge in marijuana use, there were drops in the use of other illicit drugs, drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco.
But marijuana is another story. Nearly a quarter of all high school seniors said they smoked pot in the past month – a significant increase from past years. And with the drug becoming legal in more and more states, teen marijuana use is expected to continue to uptrend.
Smoking pot has become so widespread, and cigarettes so uncommon, that when you ask most kids today if they smoke they assume you mean marijuana.
Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told StatNews that more teenagers smoke marijuana than cigarettes these days.
“If you ask if they smoke, they think you mean marijuana,” Dr. Volkow said.
Lowest illicit drug use in history of surveyThe use of illicit drugs (other than marijuana) has declined to the lowest level in the history of the survey – 5.4 percent among 8th graders, 9.8 percent among 10th graders, and 14.3 percent among 12th graders. This is down from peak rates of 12.6 percent for 8th graders in 1995, and 18.4 percent for 10th graders in 1996, and 21.6 percent for 12th graders in 2001.
Roughly 5 percent of high school seniors reported using opioid pain relievers for “non-medical reasons” in the past year. This was down from a peak rate of 9.4 percent in 2004.
Heroin use remained relatively stable, however, with 0.3 percent of high school seniors reporting they’ve injected heroin in the past year – the same rate seen in 2014. Given that heroin use among adults in the US is on the rise, Dr. Volkow said that the lack of an increase among teens “caught her eye.”
“Teenagers perceive heroin as very harmful,” she said. She added that some “very, very strong prevention campaigns targeted toward teenagers” may be having a good effect.
The rate of non-medical use of the ADHD drug Adderall — which 6 percent of high school seniors reported using in the past year — has remained fairly stable.
Tobacco use continued its decline that began 25 years ago. Back in 1991, the year of the first tobacco survey, nearly 11 percent of high school seniors said they smoked at least a half a pack a day. In this most recent survey, smoking cigarettes has dropped to only 1.8 percent.
Meanwhile, the growing popularity of marijuana among teens “remains a major hurdle in tackling illicit drug use among adolescents,” Dr. Volkow said. New marijuana laws will make it easier for teenagers to try it, which can lead to trying other illicit substances.
“This is a stage of great vulnerability for drug consumption,” she told StatNews. “These policy changes influence teenagers, even though we may not be seeing it.”
Don’t let your kids or any teens you know slip into marijuana abuse just because it’s legal here and there. There’s plenty of information on line about the downside of this drug, especially affecting kids.
And if you or someone you care about needs help with substance use problems, don’t hesitate to give us a call at Novus. We’re always here to help.
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