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Monitoring the Future Survey: Declining Rates of Teen Drug Abuse

The 2016 numbers are in and research shows yet another year of declining drug and alcohol abuse among eighth, 10th and 12th grade students. The caveat is marijuana use in these demographics, which spiked in 2015, has remained relatively stable.

Monitoring the Future Declining Teen Drug Use

“Clearly our public health prevention efforts, as well as policy changes to reduce availability, are working to reduce teen drug use, especially among eighth graders,” Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in video statement.

“However, when 6 percent of high school seniors are using marijuana daily and new synthetics are flooding the illegal marketplace daily, we cannot be complacent,” she went on to say.

In cooperation with the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, NIDA releases its yearly Monitoring the Future Survey every December and has since 1975. The MTF is the only federal youth survey to publish a report on data collected in the same year.

What are the Highlights of the 2016 Monitoring the Future Survey?

The 2016 MTF Survey found the following:

  • Marijuana Use: With the exception of 8th graders, who saw a significant drop of almost 2.5 percent, 10th graders remained comparable to last year at 23.9 percent of students admitting to past-year marijuana use. The same held true for high school seniors, with 35.6 percent admitting to using pot. The percentage of daily marijuana users among 10th and 12th graders also mirrored last year’s data, at 2.5 and 6 percent
  • Synthetic Marijuana Use: Dangerous cannabinoids, such as K2 or Spice, which can come with an array of unsafe side effects, saw a drop across all three grades from 2015 and is down 11.4 percent since 2011, the first year synthetic marijuana use was measured
  • Cocaine Use: At its peak in 1999, past-year cocaine use among 10th graders came in at 4.9 percent. In 2016, 1.3 percent admitted to past-year use, which is also down from the previous year
  • Opioid Use: The non-medical use of opioids and prescription painkillers is going down, though it remains a problem in the adult population. MTF reports a 45 percent decrease since 2011. Where heroin use with a needle is concerned, the survey found similar numbers to the previous year, at 0.3 percent
  • Alcohol Use: Rates of past-year alcohol use are the lowest in the survey’s history. Among high school seniors, 37.3 percent report getting “drunk” in the past year compared to more than 50 percent in 2001

Marijuana Attitudes are Changing

According to the survey, there’s evidence that attitudes toward marijuana has softened among middle school and high school students, with fewer believing regular use is unhealthy.

States with medicinal marijuana laws report a slightly higher past-year use than states without these laws. Still, a record number of eighth graders say that getting access to marijuana is difficult.

National Drug Control Policy Director, Michael Botticelli, released a statement saying continued support of evidence-based prevention and treatment methods for teenagers is a must.

Botticelli praised passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which provides $1 billion for prevention and treatment, saying, “…we will have significant resources to do this.”


New Personality Test Identifies Children at Risk for Addiction

What States Recently Passed Marijuana Reform Measures?

Why is Drunkorexia Popular on College Campuses?

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT): An eBook by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids


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