Data for the 2017 Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF), which polls eighth, 10th and 12th graders about illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco use annually, came out last month.
The big picture is positive overall with teens using fewer illicit opioids, such as prescription painkillers, though officials expressed concern over the popularity among this young demographic of “vaping” nicotine and marijuana.
“We are especially concerned because the survey shows that some of the teens using these [“vaping”] devices are first-time nicotine users,” Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) said in her statement.”
Published every year since 1975, the MTF is conducted by NIDA and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. It is the only federal youth survey to publish data it collects in the same year.
2017 Monitoring the Future Survey Results
The 2017 MTF survey found some of the following:
- Use of pain medications, described in the survey as “narcotics other than heroin” has seen a significant decline among 12th graders. At it’s peak in 2004, 9.5 percent of high school seniors reported some use of painkillers. Last year, that number fell to 4.2 percent
- Misuse of the painkiller Vicodin, an opioid, has fallen dramatically since it’s peak use of 10.5 percent in 2003 to just 2.9 percent last year
- However, 1 in 10 high school seniors admit to vaping nicotine, while 1 in 20 said they “vaped” marijuana at least once last year.
- Marijuana use remains relatively stable, up less than 1 percent in the last two years, although attitudes about the daily use of marijuana has shifted. Fewer teens now disapprove of daily marijuana than last year. The survey also notes that 12th graders in states with medical marijuana laws report a greater likelihood of “vaping” the drug or consuming edibles – 16.7 percent – compared to 8.3 percent of students in states without those laws
- Inhalant use, referred to as “huffing,” is historically more common among teens. There was a slight increase by 8th graders in 2017, but rates are still significantly lower than the peak of 12.8 percent that reported “huffing” in 1995
- “Synthetic marijuana use,” products that go by names like K2 and Spice, is down to 3.7 among 12th graders compared to 11.3 percent five years ago
- Cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines use among teenagers also remains very low
Teen Opioid Use
Though the use of opioids, prescription painkillers and heroin, is still at epidemic levels among adults in the United States, the MTF reports teens say these drugs are harder to get than in past years.
This is a positive sign for organizations like CVS Health, one of the nations largest pharmacies, that put limits on the amount of opioids they will dispense, based on new guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The decline in both the misuse and perceived availability of opioid medications may reflect recent health initiatives to discourage opioid misuse to address this crisis,” Volkow said in her statement.
She added that evidence-based efforts are the best method for preventing America’s youth from become statistics in the fight against drug and alcohol addiction.