Monitoring the Future is a yearly survey that measures adolescent drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and attitudes nationwide. This year’s results showed a downward trend for teen prescription opioid abuse and cigarette and alcohol use. The rate of marijuana use remained stable compared to 2013 data.
Use of prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons was reported by 6.1 percent of high school seniors, compared with 7.1 percent last year. Daily cigarette smoking has decreased almost 50 percent over the past five years across all grades surveyed (eighth, tenth, and twelfth). This is the first year that e-cigarette use was measured in the MTF survey. Past-month use for eighth graders is 8.7 percent, for tenth graders is 16.2 percent, and for twelfth graders is 17.1 percent. Many experts are concerned by these rates because the health effects of e-cigarettes are currently unknown and are being researched by The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Marijuana use remained steady among teens compared to last year, with the majority of high school seniors believing that it is not harmful. Five years ago, 27.4 percent of seniors believed occasional use put the user at great risk; this year only 16.4 percent felt that way. Eighty-one percent of twelfth graders say that it is easy to obtain marijuana.
Alcohol use continued a gradual decline across all grades, and binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks in a row in the last two weeks) dropped to below 20 percent among high school seniors.
“We are encouraged to see a continued decrease in binge drinking among young people,” said George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Still, nearly 1 in 5 high school seniors report binge drinking within the past two weeks, which is unacceptably high and underscores the need for underage drinking research to remain a priority.”
National Drug Control Policy Acting Director Michael Botticelli reinforced the administration’s dedication to preventing teen substance use. “The Obama administration remains steadfast in its commitment to reduce drug use and its consequences—and we know that the best way to reduce drug use is to prevent it from ever starting,” he said. “I encourage parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors to have a conversation with a young person in their lives about making the healthy decisions that will keep them on a path toward a successful future.”
The survey included participation from 41,551 students from 377 public and private schools. The students report their drug use behaviors across their lifetime, the past year, and the past month. It is funded by NIDA and conducted by the University of Michigan.