Since 1975, a survey funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse has been monitoring marijuana use in teens, as well as the use of tobacco, alcohol and even prescription drugs. This year was no different, but the results were very interesting. The 2016 Monitoring the Future survey showed a large decline in the use of illicit substances. In fact, it was the lowest in the history of the survey for 8th graders and cigarette smoking was the lowest it’s ever been in all grades. In this day and age where marijuana prohibition is almost a thing of the past, it is illuminating to see that it has not negatively affected teen use in any way.
The Monitoring the Future Survey
For the survey, researchers at the University of Michigan researched and measured the behavior and attitudes in teens amongst 8th, 10th and 12th graders. They talked to 45,473 students from 372 public and private schools across the country. The news of the decrease was encouraging across the board and Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said, “This is very, very good news. We are seeing some of the lowest rates of drug use we’ve ever encountered in our survey, and that is for cocaine, amphetamines, heroin, inhalants.”
The Unsurprising Decrease in Marijuana Use in Teens
Samuel Ball, president and CEO of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, expressed that he wasn’t surprised by the results, as the use of illicit drugs amongst teens has been steadily decreasing in the survey results over the past 10 years. Nicotine use in particular has seen a fourfold decrease over the last 15 years. In 1991, 1/10 of high school students smoked a minimum of half a pack a day. This most recent survey finds that the number has dropped down to 1.8 percent.
A Decline in Teen Vaping
Marijuana use in teens who are in 8th grade dropped from 6.5 percent last year to 5.4 percent. Daily use dropped from 1.1 percent to 0.7 percent. While these numbers are encouraging and it seems that the younger students are consuming less marijuana, the numbers of the older students in 10th and 12th grade have not changed at all. As it stands, over 22 percent of high school seniors admitted to using marijuana over the previous month and 6 percent admitted to daily use. Apart from the youngest surveyed, marijuana use in teens remains unchanged and given the current culture of change around the plant with so many states legalizing, it doesn’t seem to have made much impact on the teenage world. Having said that, there was a decline in vaping amongst all age groups. This is the first time such a decline has been seen in the survey results.
Despite the positive results, both Volkow and Ball remain vigilant in continuing to oppose the use of illicit drugs of any kind in teens. As marijuana continues to be legalized, they are especially concerned to ensure there is not an increase in use. For now, the results of this year’s survey are all very positive with trends expected to continue along these lines.