4 Substances Showing Declines Among Teens


There's good news for parents of teenagers: fewer of them are abusing certain substances.

There’s good news for parents of teenagers: fewer of them are abusing certain substances.

The 2015 Monitoring the Future survey, which is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), recently revealed promising findings about drug use and attitudes among students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades.

The 4 substances showing declines among teens are:

1.Prescription opioids

Pharmacists will be pleased to learn that inappropriate Vicodin use has dropped significantly since its peak of 10.5% among high school seniors in 2003.

In 2015, only 4.4% of this student population reported taking the prescription opioid for non-medical use.

Pharmacists can start conversations with patients about teens’ access to these medications, since most of the students said they received prescription opioids from friends or family members.

One-third of the students misused opioids from their own prescriptions, so pharmacists also can play a role in monitoring inappropriate use and prescribing practices for this population.


A little more than 17% of students said they had participated in binge drinking (5 or more drinks in a row) in the past 2 weeks.

This compares with 19.4% in 2014 and 31.5% in 1998, which was the highest rate ever reported.

Around 37% said they had gotten drunk in the past year, which is down from 41.4% in 2014.


Very few 10th-graders (3%) reported daily smoking in 2015, but hookah and small cigar use has remained relatively high among 12th-graders (19.8% and 15.9%, respectively).

Three-quarters of students said they believed that smoking a pack of cigarettes a day was harmful.

Meanwhile, e-cigarette use is more popular among boys (21.5%) than girls (10.9%). The researchers said most of the students used flavoring alone, while others were not sure what they inhaled through e-cigarettes.

4.Synthetic cannabinoids

Synthetic marijuana use has dropped significantly since 2011, when 11.4% of 12th-graders said they had used the substance in the past year.

This year, only 5.2% of high school seniors had used synthetic marijuana.

However, regular marijuana saw stable use—including high rates of daily use among 12th-graders—and decreasing perceptions of its harm.

Last year, around 36.1% of high school seniors said regular use of marijuana was risky, while 31.9% of this year’s seniors said the same.

The researchers also discovered that 12th-graders were more likely to use marijuana on a daily basis than smoke cigarettes. Around 6% of these students used marijuana on a daily basis, while 5.5% said they smoked cigarettes daily.

Meanwhile, back in 2014, around 6.7% of students said they smoked cigarettes daily.

“We are heartened to see that most illicit drug use is not increasing, non-medical use of prescription opioids is decreasing, and there is improvement in alcohol and cigarette use rates,” said Nora D.

Volkow, MD, director of NIDA, in a press release. “However, continued areas of concern are the high rate of daily marijuana smoking seen among high school students because of marijuana’s potential deleterious effects on the developing brains of teenagers, and the high rates of overall tobacco products and nicotine containing e-cigarettes usage.”

National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli added that the downward trends in drug use supported continued efforts in prevention, treatment, and recovery. He suggested that parents, teachers, and mentors should have conversations with teens about making healthy life decisions.

Other findings from the study included that heroin use is hovering around 0.3% to 0.5% among teens, and MDMA, LSD, and inhalant use were stable or on the decline.

Last year, for example, 5% of high school seniors reported using MDMA, but this year, the percentage was down to 3.6%.

Pharmacists should view inappropriate Adderall use as an area for concern, given that use of the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug remained high at 7.5% among high school seniors.

Almost 45,000 students from 382 schools participated in the survey.

The questions were targeted toward lifetime, past year, and past month use of drugs, plus daily use questions surrounding cigarettes and marijuana.

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