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Drug use by U.S. teens drops to all-time low

Staff Writer |
Drug use among U.S. teens is at an all-time low, says finding from a new survey by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

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Fewer teens are using illegal drugs than ever before, the survey found, and fewer are falling prey to the epidemic of prescription drug abuse plaguing many adults in the United States.

Many teens also have turned away from drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco, said NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow.

"There are significant decreases in the patterns of drug consumption among teenagers in our country," Volkow said. "Quite significant, to the point where we have several drugs at the lowest levels that we've ever seen since the inception of the survey."

The results come from the 2016 Monitoring the Future survey, an annual study of behaviors and choices among teens in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades.

Use of illicit drugs other than marijuana is at its lowest level in the history of the survey for all three grades. For example, 14 percent of 12th graders said they used an illicit drug, compared to 18 percent in 2013.

Teen use of prescription pain killers is trending downward among 12th graders, with a 45 percent drop in past year use compared to five years ago. For example, nearly 3 percent of high school seniors misused the opioid pain reliever Vicodin (acetaminophen/hydrocodone) in 2016, compared to nearly 10 percent a decade ago.

Only 5 percent of high school seniors said they smoke cigarettes every day, compared to 22 percent two decades ago. For 10th graders, the 2016 daily smoking rate is 2 percent, compared to 18 percent in 1996.

About 56 percent of 12th graders drank alcohol in the past year, compared to a peak of about 75 percent in 1997.

Younger teens also followed this trend - 38 percent of 10th graders and nearly 18 percent of eighth graders reported past year use, compared to peaks of 65 percent in 2000 for 10th graders and 47 percent in 1994 among eighth graders.

Results regarding marijuana were more mixed.

Use within the past month among eighth graders dropped significantly, down to 5 percent in 2016 compared with 6.5 percent in 2015. Daily use also declined among eighth graders, to 0.7 percent compared with 1.1 percent the year before.

However, older teens continued to use marijuana at about the same rate. For example, 22.5 percent of high school seniors reported using pot within the past month, and 6 percent reported daily use - roughly the same as last year.


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