Cigarette and alcohol consumption among 8th, 10th and 12th graders (14, 16 and 18 year olds) are lower than they have ever been since certain records began in 1975, but marijuana and non-medical prescription medication usage has increased, says a new report – “Monitoring the Future” (MTF) – issued by The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Consumption of some tobacco products did not fall, such as hookahs, smokeless tobacco and small cigars, the authors added.
In a news conference today, a NIDA spokesperson explained that more children appear to be abusing marijuana than cigarettes. Although alcohol consumption has dropped, it is still the favorite drug for children of these three ages.
Monitoring The Future is a survey which is done in classrooms and paid for by NIDA; it was carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
NIDA director Dr. Nora D. Volkow, said:
“That cigarette use has declined to historically low rates is welcome news, given our concerns that declines may have slowed or stalled in recent years. That said, the teen smoking rate is declining much more slowly than in years past, and we are seeing teens consume other tobacco products at high levels.
This highlights the urgency of maintaining strong prevention efforts against teen smoking and of targeting other tobacco products.”
The findings for 2011 revealed that 18.7% of 12th-graders said they had smoked a cigarette during the previous four weeks, compared to 36.5% in 1997 and 21.6% in 2006. Among 8th graders, 6.1% say they are smokers, versus 21% fifteen years ago and 8.7% in 2006.
Assistant Secretary for Health, Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, said:
“While it is good news that cigarette use has declined to historically low rates, we can and must do more to accelerate that decline. The actual decline is relatively small compared to the sharp declines we witnessed in the late nineties.”
Below are some of the results from the 2011 survey for self-reported alcohol consumption:
- 12th graders – 63.5% said they had consumed alcohol during the previous 12-month period, versus 74.8% in 1997
- 8th graders – 26.9% said they had consumed alcohol during the previous 12-month period, versus 46.8% in 1994
- Binge drinking – defined as consuming at least five drinks in one sitting at any time during the previous two weeks:
– 8th graders – 6.4% said they had, compared to 8.7% in 2006
-10th graders – 14.7% said they had, compared to 19.9% in 2006
-12th graders – 21.6% said they had, compared to 25.4% in 2006
6.6% of 12th-graders say they use marijuana daily, while 36.4% say they have had it at some time during the previous twelve months – five years ago the figures stood at 5% and 31.5% respectively.
While teenage marijuana abuse grows, so does their downward perception of risk associated with the drug:
- 25.9% of high school seniors viewed occasional marijuana as a great risk, compared to 22.7% today.
- 48.9% of 8th-graders viewed occasional marijuana smoking as a great risk compared to 43.4% today.
- Among 12-graders, 11.4% said they had used K2 (also known as spice, or synthetic marijuana) during the previous twelve months. This is the first time questions regarding K2 have been included in the survey. The authors expressed “surprise” at this figure.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, said:
“K2 and spice are dangerous drugs that can cause serious harm. We will continue to work with the public health and safety community to respond to this emerging threat but in the meantime, parents must take action. Parents are the most powerful force in the lives of young people and we ask that all of them talk to their teens today about the serious consequences of using marijuana, K2, or spice.”
Below are some more data regarding non-medical use of prescription and OTC medications
- In 2011, 8.1% of 12th-graders reported abusing Vicodin, an opioid painkiller, compared to 9.7% in 2009 (8.1% in 2010).
- In 2011, 5.9% of 10th-graders reported abusing Vicodin, compared to 7.7% in 2010.
- 12th-graders – Adderal 6.5%, Ritalin 2.6%. Both medications used for ADHD treatment.
- 8th graders – OTC cough medicines. Usage dropped to 2.7% in 2011, compared to 4.2% in 2006. For 12th-graders the figures were 5.3% and 6.9% respectively.
Dr. Volkow said:
“To help educate teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, NIDA is launching an updated prescription drug section on our teen website. Teens can go to our PEERx page to find interactive videos and other tools that help them make healthy decisions and understand the risks of abusing prescription drugs. We are also encouraging teens to provide feedback on these resources through NIDA’s teen blog, Sara Bellum, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or email.”
Written by Christian Nordqvist