Thursday, December 16, 2021

Adolescents’ Substance Use Drops Dramatically, Survey Finds

The percentage of adolescents reporting substance use decreased significantly in 2021, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future survey. The drop represents the largest one-year decease in the survey’s 46-year history.  

“We have never seen such dramatic decreases in drug use among teens in just a one-year period. These data are unprecedented and highlight one unexpected potential consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused seismic shifts in the day-to-day lives of adolescents,” Nora Volkow, M.D., National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) director, said in a news release. 

Conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, the Monitoring the Future survey asks eighth, 10th, and 12th graders about their substance use in the past 30 days, 12 months, and lifetime. Students took the survey either on a tablet or computer, with 40% responding in school and 60% responding at home while schooling was virtual. Data from 32,260 surveys from students in 319 public and private schools in the United States were included in the final analysis. 

These are the key findings from the survey: 

  • The percentage of students reporting using marijuana in all forms in the past year dropped significantly among participants in all three grades, with the greatest decline in 10th graders (from 28.0% reporting past-year marijuana use in 2020 to 17.3% in 2021).
  • The percentage of students who reported using alcohol within the past year decreased significantly for 10th and 12th graders (dropping from 40.7% in 2020 to 28.5% in 2021 for 10th graders and 55.3% in 2020 to 46.5% in 2021 for 12th graders). The percentage of eighth graders reporting alcohol use in the past year fell slightly between 2020 and 2021, but it was not a statistically significant decrease. 
  • Though vaping continues to be the predominant method of nicotine consumption among adolescents, the percentage of students who reported vaping nicotine within the past year fell significantly for students in all three grades. The greatest drop in nicotine vaping was seen in 10th graders (from 30.7% in 2020 to 19.5% in 2021).

The 2021 survey also asked students about changes in their mental health since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Students in all three grades reported moderate increases in anxiety, depression, sleeping difficulty, loneliness, sadness, and difficulty being interested in normal activities. 

“Moving forward, it will be crucial to identify the pivotal elements of this past year that contributed to decreased drug use—whether related to drug availability, family involvement, differences in peer pressure, or other factors—and harness them to inform future prevention efforts,” Volkow said. 

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Long-Term Impact of COVID-19 on Children, Adolescents Constitutes Public Health Emergency.”

(Image: iStock/eyecrave)

Learn About Candidates in APA’s 2022 Election in Virtual Town Halls

APA members have the opportunity to virtually meet the 2022 candidates during a series of town hall sessions. The last town hall will take place tonight (December 16) at 8 p.m. ET. Each session will include a seven-minute presentation from each candidate on their platform followed by a Q&A.

December 16: Resident-fellow member (RFM) trustee-elect (elected by RFMs)



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