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Latest Findings on Teen Drug Use

Latest Findings on Teen Drug Use

How Many Teens Are Using Drugs?

It’s always important to stay informed on the latest findings and information about drugs, substance abuse and other issues that plague people as a whole.  There are many agencies, both public and private, and many researchers dedicated to finding new information to improve the lives of those with addictions and those with loved ones who are facing addiction or facing the consequences of drugs or substance abuse.  This is especially important for parents who worry about teen drug use.


Drug and Alcohol Study with a Teen Focus

One great study on teen drug use that has been conducted yearly since 1975 is the Monitoring the Future Study, funded by the federal government and conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.  This study often focuses on teens in 8th, 10th , and 12th grade and their attitudes towards drugs and measures their use of certain drugs. The 2017 survey included a lot of interesting findings on teen drug use.


Smoking Trends

Vaping nicotine is highest, measuring at about 11% among 12th graders.


Hookah smoking is also not as prevalent and has declined to 10.1% in 2017 from 22.9% in 2014 amongst 12th graders.


Smoking Marijuana is slightly elevated from the 2016 study, but comparatively stable across recent years surveys. Thankfully however, at least cigarette smoking has declined.


K2/Slice, or synthetic marijuana, has also dropped significantly in both 12th graders and 8th graders.


Opioids and Stimulants

Opioid Use – For adults and across America there is an increasingly terrible opioid epidemic. This epidemic doesn’t seem to extend to the teen population though.  The survey found that teen opioid pain medication use is declining and has been on the decline for over 10 years.


Heroin and methamphetamine use are the lowest at less than half a percent. Cocaine use and anabolic steroids remains low in teen students, especially 12th graders.


Prescription stimulants is another stable category, where 12th graders stated using Adderall at 5.5%, which is a significantly lower number than its highest at 7.6% at 2012.  Ritalin was at an all-time low for 12th graders and 8th graders as well.


Other Drugs Teens Use

Inhalants – while lower in 2016, this category experienced slightly elevated levels this year in the 8th grade population. Overall usage is still low and on the decline.


Conversely, LSD use has had a small increase in the 12th grade population, but is much lower than its 8.8% high in 1996.


Aside from marijuana and inhalants, the reported use of all other drugs has been recorded as the lowest in the history of the survey.  This past year, only 13.3% of 12th graders,  9.4% of 10th graders, and 5.8% of 8th graders reported using. These all-time lows highlight the benefits of ongoing evidence-based prevention programs focused on preteen children.


Drinking Trends

For teens, the popular pastime of binge drinking seems to have remained relatively consistent this year, and is still much lower than the peak numbers for bingeing. For this survey, binge drinking was considered 5 plus drinks in a row within the last 2 weeks. The decline in binge drinking, however, is one that is going very slowly.  The director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, George F. Koob, Ph.D., believes that there may be a necessity for more of a focus on alcohol prevention strategies for this particular age range.


Teen drinking and drug use is an important area of study as teens are exposed to consistent media images of drinking and drug use. During the impressionable teen years, this can have a big impact on their choice to engage in substance use, especially if no deterrents are provided. Additionally, teens face peer pressure and are enduring a number of changes ranging from bodily to life changes, some of which may be difficult to navigate.


Some teens may also be exposed to drinking and drug use at home and therefore have a different outlook as to what is appropriate and what is not. Furthermore, some teens may take drugs as prescribed by a doctor but still don’t adequately understand the risks of prescription drug abuse, what constitutes drug abuse, and the risks of sharing drugs with friends. It’s for these reasons that education surrounding drugs and alcohol is present and why studies are conducted with repetition. It’s also a necessity to provide adequate support for teens during these tumultuous years and a place where if necessary, teens and their families can build trust to achieve recovery from teen drug use.


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Northeast Addictions Treatment Center is a Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center in Quincy, Massachusetts. Our team has been helping individuals with Drug or Alcohol Addiction live a life of Recovery since 2016.