Good News: Illicit Drug Use Trending Down Among Kids

Good News: Illicit Drug Use Trending Down Among Kids

Good news about drug use among America’s kids!

Illicit drug use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders across the country is holding steady at the lowest levels in over two decades.

“Use of many substances reached the lowest levels since the survey began and held steady in 2017, or in some cases, dropped even more,” says the latest annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which covered 2016.

NIDA is the federal addiction research division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Substances at historic low levels of use include: Diagram of the percent of students reporting use of marijuana in past year

  • alcohol and cigarettes
  • heroin
  • prescription opioids
  • MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)
  • methamphetamine
  • amphetamines
  • sedatives.

“Other illicit drugs showed five-year declines, such as synthetic marijuana, hallucinogens other than LSD, and over-the-counter cough and cold medications,” the report continues. “Five-year trends, however, did reveal an increase in LSD use among high school seniors, although use still remains lower compared to its peak in 1996.”

Percentage of kids reporting drug use breaks down like this:

  • 5.8 percent among 8th graders, down from peak rates of 13.1 percent in 1996;
  • 9.4 percent among 10th graders, down from peak rates of 18.4 percent in 1996;
  • 13.3 percent among 12th graders, down from peak rates of 21.6 percent in 2001.

Good news about opioids

Despite the soaring opioid epidemic, the misuse of prescription opioids (narcotics other than heroin) dropped significantly over the last five years in 12th graders. The prescription painkiller Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) dropped by 51 percent in 8th graders, 67 percent in 10th graders and 74 percent in 12th graders.

“Interestingly, teens also think these drugs are not as easy to get as they used to be. Only 35.8 percent of 12th graders said they were easily available in the 2017 survey, compared to more than 54 percent in 2010.”

Good news about alcohol and marijuana

Alcohol use and binge drinking showed a “significant five-year decline” among all grades, but not much decline from 2016 to 2017. Diagram of the percent of students reporting use of alcohol in the past year

While several states have legalized marijuana, its use has actually declined among 10th graders compared to five years ago, and has remained relatively unchanged among 8th and 12th graders.

In 2016, marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders reached its lowest levels in more than two decades.

For “past-month use” among 10th graders, there was a slight increase in 2017 to the levels of 2014 and 2015, a return after a decrease in 2016. Daily use of marijuana has declined among 8th graders over the past five years to 0.7 percent.

Among 12th graders, 6 percent continue to report daily use, which corresponds to about 1 in 16 high school seniors.

This year, daily marijuana use exceeds daily cigarette use among 8th (0.8 vs. 0.6 percent), 10th (2.9 vs. 2.2 percent) and 12th (5.9 vs. 4.2 percent) graders. This is the first year in which daily marijuana use appeared to outpace daily cigarette use among 8th graders-this flip occurred in 10th graders in 2014 and in 12th graders in 2015, reflecting a steep decline in daily cigarette use and fairly stable daily marijuana use.

Some poor news about perceived risk of harm

Each year, the survey tries to establish a “perceived risk of harm” among the kids about various substances. This year’s not-so-good news is “a general decline” in the perceived risk of harm from a number of substances. Even worse, it also found a decline in kids’ disapproval of people who use those substances.

Diagram of the percent of students reporting any illicit drug use in past yearFor example, the percentage of 8th graders who perceive harm in the occasional use of synthetic marijuana or over-the-counter cough and cold medications has dropped this year to less than last year and prior years. Fewer 10th graders perceived a risk of harm from trying inhalants, powder cocaine or over-the-counter cough and cold medications once or twice. And high school seniors reported a reduced perception of harm from cocaine, heroin, steroids and LSD.

All grades expressed a decreasing perception of harm and disapproval concerning regular use of marijuana. Only 29.0 percent of 12th graders reported that regular marijuana use poses a great risk – only half of what it was 20 years ago.

The full NIDA report also includes data about alcohol, tobacco and “vaping.”

Start Your New Path to Sobriety Today!

    • Please enter your name.
    • This isn't a valid phone number.
    • Please enter your email address.
      This isn't a valid email address.
    • Please make a selection.
    • Please enter a message.