The long-running Monitoring the Future study conducted by the University of Michigan suggests that teenage alcohol and drug use in 2014 are at the lowest they have been since 1975, the year the study began.
Teen Drug, Alcohol Use Stats
The study surveys between 40,000 and 50,000 eighth grade, 10th grade and 12th grade students each year from secondary schools across the United States. The teenagers who participate in the study are asked about their alcohol consumption, cigarette and other tobacco product use, prescription drug misuse or abuse and illegal drug abuse.
Teen Alcohol Use On Long-Term Decline
Alcohol remains the most commonly abused substance among teenagers and adults in the United States, but this study found that alcohol use among teens dropped between 2013 and 2014. In 2013, the survey found that 43 percent of teens used alcohol in the previous 12 months, but in 2014 that number dropped to 41 percent.
The past 15-plus years have seen a steady decline in the percentage of teenagers who experiment with alcohol. In 1997, the rate of teenagers using alcohol was at its highest point since the study began—61 percent. The binge drinking rate was also much higher in 1997 than in 2014—22 percent compared to only 12 percent.
Cigarette Smoking At Historic Low
The number of teens smoking cigarettes reached an historic low-point, falling to 8 percent. As recently as 1997, the percentage of teenagers smoking cigarettes was as high as 28 percent. The survey found that more teenagers than ever said that cigarette smoking was very risky for their health.
Marijuana And Synthetic Marijuana Use Both Drop
After alcohol, marijuana remains the most commonly used psychoactive substance among teenagers. However, marijuana use declined slightly in 2014, dropping from 26 percent in 2013 to 24 percent.
Synthetic marijuana is also popular, although not quite as popular as true marijuana, and its rate of use among teens also dropped. Experts have been concerned that teenagers fail to realize the risks associated with synthetic marijuana—commonly known as Spice or K2—but the decrease in use from 11 percent in 2011 to only 6 percent in 2014 suggests that more teenagers are recognizing the dangers.
Prescription Drug Abuse Shows Slight Decline
There were even positive signs concerning prescription drug abuse, a problem that grew to epidemic proportions in recent decades. The Monitoring the Future study has noted a slow and even decline in abuse of prescription drugs among teenagers since 2005, and there was a notably significant decrease in the number of participating teenagers who abused prescription drugs from 2013 to 2014.
In 2005, 17 percent of teenagers reported abusing at least one prescription drug. By 2013, that figure had dropped slightly to 16 percent, but between 2013 and 2014 the number of teens abusing prescription medications fell to 14 percent. While this is still a significant problem among this age group, there are signs that the epidemic may have reached its peak.
Use Of Several Highly Dangerous Drugs Unchanged
Unfortunately, the news is not as good when it comes to some of the most dangerous illicit drugs in the world. The number of teenagers using crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and crystal methamphetamine did not drop from 2013 to 2014. However, those rates did not increase and remain much lower than their historic peaks.
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