Since 1975, the Monitoring the Future survey has been tracking trends in substance use by annually surveying over 40,000 8th, 10th and 12th graders across United States about their use of alcohol, tobacco products, and illicit drugs, as well as their attitude toward such products.
This year’s survey, which included 44,892 students from 382 U.S. public and private schools, found that alcohol use by teens declined, with an average of 22.1% of those surveyed reporting past-month use of alcohol, down from 23.3% in 2014 and 27.9% in 2010. Average rates for past-month cigarette use also declined for the three grades combined, dropping from 13.3% in 2010 and 8.0% in 2014 to 7.0% in 2015.
Past-month marijuana use for youth surveyed in 2015 was 3.4%—a percentage that remained unchanged since 2014. However, for the first time in the history of the survey, daily marijuana use exceeded daily tobacco use among 12th graders, with approximately 6% reporting past-month, daily use of marijuana compared with 5.5% reporting daily use of cigarettes. According to the survey, the perception by 12th graders that marijuana use is risky continues to decline, with 31.9% expressing the opinion that regular marijuana use is harmful compared with 36.1% in 2014 and 46.8% in 2010.
Other major findings highlighted in the NIDA report included downward trends in youth’s past-year use of synthetic cannabinoids, MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly), heroin, and prescription opioids.
“We are heartened to see that most illicit drug use is not increasing, non-medical use of prescription opioids is decreasing, and there is improvement in alcohol and cigarette use rates,” Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA, said in a statement. “However, continued areas of concern are the high rate of daily marijuana smoking seen among high school students, because of marijuana’s potential deleterious effects on the developing brains of teenagers, and the high rates of overall tobacco products and nicotine containing e-cigarettes usage.”
For coverage of the 2014 Monitoring the Future Survey, see the Psychiatric News article “Teen Alcohol, Tobacco Use Down, E-cigarette Use Up.”
(Image: Photo Courtesy of NIDA)