Tue. Jun 6th, 2023

Dec.  13,  2016

Contacts:  Jared  Wadley,  jwadley@umich.edu, Janice  Lee,  mtfinformation@umich.edu

Teen use of any illicit drug other than marijuana at new low, same true for alcohol

ANN  ARBOR  – Teenagers’  use of drugs,  alcohol and tobacco declined significantly in 2016  at  rates that are  at their lowest  since the 1990s, a new national study showed.

But  University  of  Michigan  researchers cautioned that  while  these  developments are “trending  in the right direction,” marijuana use still  remains high for 12th­ graders.

The  results  derive  from  the  annual Monitoring  the  Future  study,  now  in  its  42nd  year. About 45,000 students in some 380 public and private secondary schools have been surveyed each year in  this national study, designed and conducted by  research scientists at UM’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  Students in grades 8, 10 and 12 are surveyed.

Overall, the proportion of secondary school students in the country who used any  illicit drug  in the prior year fell  significantly  between  2015  and  2016.  The  decline  in  narcotic drugs is of particular importance, the researchers say.  This year’s improvements were particularly concentrated among 8th and 10th­ graders.

Considerably fewer teens reported using any illicit drug other than  marijuana  in  the  prior 12 months — 5 percent, 10 percent and 14  percent  in  grades  8,  10  and  12, respectively —than at any time since 1991.  These rates reflect a decline of about one percentage point in each grade in 2016, but a much larger decline over  the  longer  term.

In fact, the overall percentage of teens using any of the illicit drugs other than marijuana has been in a gradual, long-term decline since the last half  of  the  1990s, when their peak  rates  reached 13 percent, 18 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

Marijuana, the most widely used of the illicit drugs, dropped sharply in 2016 in use among 8th­ graders to 9.4 percent, or about one in every 11 indicating any use in the prior 12 months. Use also declined among 10th ­graders as well, though not by a statistically significant amount, to 24 percent or about one in every four 10th­ graders.

The annual prevalence of marijuana use (referring to the percentage using any marijuana in the prior 12 months) has been declining gradually among 8th graders  since 2010, and  more  sharply  among  10th ­graders since 2013. Among 12th ­graders, however, the prevalence of marijuana use is higher (36 percent) and has held steady since 2011. These periods of declining use (or in the case of  12th ­graders, stabilization) followed  several  years  of  increasing  use  by  each  of  these  age  groups.

Daily  or  near­ daily  use  of  marijuana—defined  as  use  on  20  or  more  occasions  in  the previous  30  days —also declined this year among the younger teens (significantly so in 8th grade to 0.7 percent and to 2.5  percent  among  10th­ graders).  However, there was no change among  12th­ graders  in  daily  use, which  remains  quite  high  at  6  percent  or roughly  one  in  every  17 12th­ graders – about  where  it  has  been  since  2010.

Prescription amphetamines  and  other  stimulants  used  without  medical  direction  have constituted the second ­most widely used  class  of  illicit  drugs  used  by  teens.

Their use has fallen  considerably,  however.  In  2016,  3.5  percent,  6.1  percent  and  6.7  percent  of
8th­,  10th­  and  12th­ graders,  respectively,  say  they  have  used  any  in  the  prior  12 months—down from recent peak  levels  of  9  percent,  12  percent  and  11  percent, respectively, reached during the last half of  the 1990s.

Prescription  narcotic  drugs   have  presented  a  serious  problem  for  the  country  in recent  years, with  increasing  numbers  of  overdose  deaths  and  emergencies  resulting from  their  use. Fortunately,  the  use  of  these  drugs  outside  of  medical  supervision  has been in decline, at  least  among  high  school  seniors — the  only  ones  for  whom  narcotics use  is  reported. In  2004, a  high  proportion  of  12th­ graders—9.5  percent,  or  nearly  one in  10 — indicated using  a  prescription  narcotic  in  the  prior  12  months,  but  today  that percentage  is  down by half to 4.8  percent.

“That’s  still  a  lot  of  young  people  using  these  dangerous  drugs  without  medical supervision, but the trending is in the right direction,”said Lloyd Johnston, the  study’s principal  investigator. “Fewer are  risking  overdosing  as  teenagers, and  hopefully  more will remain  abstainers as they pass into  their twenties, thereby  reducing  the  number who  become  casualties  in  those  high­ risk  years.”

Users  of  narcotic  drugs  without  medical  supervision  were  asked  where  they  get  the
drugs  they  use.  About  four  in  every  10  of  the  past­year  users  indicated  that  they  got
them  “from  a  prescription  I  had.”

“That  suggests  that  physicians  and  dentists  may  want  to  consider  reducing  the  number
of  doses  they  routinely  prescribe  when  giving  these  drugs  to  their  patients,  and  in
particular  to  teenagers,”  Johnston  said.

Heroin   is  another  narcotic  drug  of  obvious  importance.  There  is  no  evidence  in  the
study  that  the  use  of  heroin  has  risen  as  the  use  of  prescription  narcotics  has  fallen—at
least  not  in  this  population  of  adolescents  still  in  school,  who  represent  over  90  percent
of  their  respective  age  groups.

In  fact,  heroin  use  among  secondary  school  students  also  has  declined  substantially
since  recent  peak  levels  reached  in  the  late  1990s.  Among  8th­ graders,  the  annual
prevalence  of  heroin  use  declined  from  1.6  percent  in  1996  to  0.3  percent  in  2016.  And
among  12th ­graders,  the  decline  was  from  1.5  percent  in  2000  to  0.3  percent  in  2016.

“So,  among  secondary  school  students,  at  least,  there  is  no  evidence  of  heroin  coming
to  substitute  for  prescription  narcotic  drugs—a  dynamic  that  apparently  has  occurred  in
other  populations,”  Johnston  said.  “Certainly  there  will  be  individual  cases  where  that
happens,  but  overall  the  use  of  heroin  and  prescription  narcotics  both  have  declined
appreciably  and  largely  in  parallel  among  secondary  school  students.”

The  ecstasy   epidemic,  which  peaked  at  about  2001,  was  a  substantial  one  for  teens
and  young  adults, Johnston said. Ecstasy is a form of MDMA (methylenedioxy­methamphetamine)  as  is  the  much  newer  form  on  the  scene,  “Molly.”

“The  use  of  MDMA  has  generally  been  declining  among  teens  since  about  2010  or
2011,  and  it  continued  to  decrease  significantly  in  2016  in  all  three  grades  even  with  the
inclusion  of  Molly  in  the  question  in  more  recent  years,”  Johnston  said.

MDMA’s  annual  prevalence  now  stands  at  about  1  percent,  2  percent  and  3  percent  in
grades  8,  10  and  12,  respectively.

Synthetic  marijuana   (often  sold  over  the  counter  as  “K­2”  or  “Spice”)  continued  its
rapid  decline  in  use  among  teens  since  its  use  was  first  measured  in  2011.  Among
12th­graders,  for  example,  annual  prevalence  has  fallen  by  more  than  two­thirds,  from
11.4  percent  in  2011  to  3.5  percent  in  2016.  Twelfth­graders  have  been  showing  an
increased  appreciation  of  the  dangers  associated  with  these  drugs.  It  also  seems  likely
that  fewer  students  have  access  to  these  synthetic  drugs,  as  many  states  and
communities  have  outlawed  their  sale  by  retail  outlets.

Bath  salts   constitute  another  class  of  synthetic  drugs  sold  over  the  counter.   Their
annual  prevalence  has  remained  quite  low—at  1.3  percent  or  less  in  all  grades—since
they  were  first  included  in  the  study  in  2012.  One  of  the  very  few  statistically  significant
increases  in  use  of  a  drug  this  year  was  for  8th­graders’  use  of  bath  salts  (which  are
synthetic  stimulants),  but  their  annual  prevalence  is  still  only  0.9  percent  with  no
evidence  of  a  progressive  increase.

A  number  of  other  illicit  drugs  have  shown  declining  use,  as  well.  Among  them  are
cocaine ,  crack ,  sedatives   and  inhalants   (the  declining  prevalence  rates  for  these
drugs  may  be  seen  in  the  tables  and  figures  associated  with  this  release.)


The  use  of  alcohol  by  adolescents  is  even  more  prevalent  than  the  use  of  marijuana,
but  it,  too,  is  trending  downward  in  2016,  continuing  a  longer­ term  decline.  For  all  three
grades,  both  annual  and  monthly  prevalence  of  alcohol  use  are  at  historic  lows  over  the
life  of  the  study.  Both  measures  continued  to  decline  in  all  three  grades  in  2016.
Of  even  greater  importance,  measures  of  heavy  alcohol  use  are  also  down
considerably,  including  self ­reports  of  having  been  drunk  in  the  previous  30  days  and  of
binge  drinking  in  the  prior  two  weeks  (defined  as  having  five  or  more  drinks  in  a  row  on
at  least  one  occasion).

Binge  drinking  has  fallen  by  half  or  more  at  each  grade  level  since  peak  rates  were
reached  at  the  end  of  the  1990s.  Today,  the  proportions  who  binge  drink  are  3  percent,
10  percent  and  16  percent  in  grades  8,  10  and  12,  respectively.

“Since  2005,  12th­ graders  have  also  been  asked  about  what  we  call  ‘extreme  binge
drinking,’  defined  as  having  10  or  more  drinks  in  a  row  or  even  15  or  more,  on  at  least
one  occasion  in  the  prior  two  weeks,”  Johnston  said.  “Fortunately,  the  prevalence  of  this
particularly  dangerous  behavior  has  been  declining  as  well.”

In  2016,  4.4  percent  of  12th ­graders  reported  drinking  at  the  level  of  10  or  more  drinks
in  a  row,  down  by  about  two­ thirds  from  13  percent  in  2006.

Rates  of  daily  drinking  among  teens  has  also  fallen  considerably  over  the  same
intervals.  Flavored  alcoholic  beverages  and  alcoholic  beverages  containing  caffeine
have  both  declined  appreciably  in  use  since  each  was  first  measured—again,
particularly  among  the  younger  teens,  where  significant  declines  in  annual  prevalence
continued  into  2016.


Declines  in  cigarette  smoking  and  certain  other  forms  of  tobacco  use  also  occurred
among  teens  in  2016,  continuing  an  important  and  now  long­term  trend  in  the  use  of
cigarettes.  These  findings,  along  with  new  results  on  the  use  of  vaporizers  like
e­cigarettes  and  hookah,  are  presented  in  a  companion  news  release:  myumi.ch/LEDoK
The  findings  summarized  here  will  be  published  in  January  in  a  forthcoming  volume.
The  statistical  breakdown  by  states  are  not  available.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

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