Youth use of alcohol, cigarettes and illicit drugs are steadily declining, but e-cigarette use is high and the perception that marijuana is harmful is low, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Survey, released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Alcohol use rates dropped among 8th, 10th and 12th graders by 1.2 percent, 2.2 percent and 1.8 percent respectively. There was a significant drop in binge drinking in 2014 among high school seniors, which is now under 20 percent.
Past year use of narcotics other than heroin (which includes all opioid pain relievers) was reported by 6.1 percent of high school seniors, compared with 7.1 percent a year ago and markedly lower than the 2004 peak of 9.5 percent.
“The reductions in youth drug use, including smoking, underage drinking, use of synthetics and over-the-counter and prescription drug abuse tell us that our prevention strategies aimed at adolescents are working,” said General Arthur T. Dean, CADCA Chairman and CEO. “The MTF study also noted that this year marks the highest number of young people abstaining from the use of any substances. This is positive news for our nation. However, history shows that now is the time to redouble our efforts,” he went on. “Although youth marijuana use did not increase, it still remains at unacceptably high levels. When you combine this with the continued decline in perception of risk and the rise in teen use of cannabis-laced edibles, this is worrisome.”
The study found for the first time that more teens use e-cigarettes than tobacco products of any kind. Lloyd D. Johnston, Ph.D., principal investigator, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan noted, “It would be a tragedy if this product undid some of the great progress made to date in reducing cigarette smoking by teens.”
“The rapid increase in e-cigarettes as the nicotine delivery system of choice for teens is a great concern. Nicotine is detrimental to the developing adolescent brain and e-cigarettes introduce kids to a behavior that is very similar to smoking,” noted General Dean.
Experts from NIDA, University of Michigan and the Office of National Drug Control Policy all echoed their strong support for prevention at a press teleconference. “It is now more important than ever for the public health community to continue to educate teens, parents, teachers, community leaders, the media and health care providers about the specific harms of drug use among teens, whose brains are still developing,“ noted NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D.” Dr. Johnston warned of generational forgetting, and the need to “keep our eye on the ball, especially in times like this when things seem to be getting better.