Illicit use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco among U.S. teenagers continues to decline, according to the latest annual survey from the National Institutes of Health.
Results released Tuesday from the 2016 Monitoring the Future (MTF) annual survey indicates that past-year use of any illicit drug was the lowest in the survey’s history for eighth graders, and past year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana is down from recent peaks among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders.
Marijuana use in the past month among eighth graders dropped in 2016 to 5.4 percent, from 6.5 percent in 2015. Daily use among eighth graders dropped in 2016 to 0.7 percent from 1.1 percent in 2015. However, among high school seniors, 22.5 percent report past month marijuana use and 6 percent report daily use; both measures remained relatively stable from last year. Similarly, rates of marijuana use in the past year among 10th graders also remained stable compared to 2015, but are at their lowest levels in over two decades.
"Clearly our public health prevention efforts, as well as policy changes to reduce availability, are working to reduce teen drug use, especially among eighth graders," said Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the NIH. "However, when 6 percent of high school seniors are using marijuana daily, and new synthetics are continually flooding the illegal marketplace, we cannot be complacent."
The survey indicates that marijuana and e-cigarettes are more popular than regular tobacco cigarettes. The past month rates among 12th graders are 12.4 percent for e-cigarettes and 10.5 percent for cigarettes. A large drop in the use of tobacco cigarettes was seen in all three grades. For example, in 1991, 10.7 percent of high school seniors smoked a half pack or more a day. Twenty-five years later, that rate has dropped to only 1.8 percent.
There has been a similar decline in the use of alcohol; the rate of teens reporting they have “been drunk” in the past year is at the survey’s lowest rates ever. For example, 37.3 percent of 12th graders reported they have been drunk at least once, down from a peak of 53.2 percent in 2001.
Although non-medical use of prescription opioids remains a serious problem among adults, teen use of prescription opioid pain relievers is trending downward; use among 12th graders has dropped 45 percent drop in past-year use compared with five years ago. For example, only 2.9 percent of high school seniors reported past year misuse of the pain reliever Vicodin in 2016, compared with nearly 10 percent a decade ago.
The MTF survey has been conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor since 1975.
Video from the NIH: