Survey shows decline in teen cigarette and alcohol use, increase in marijuana use

Teens are consuming other tobacco products at high levels

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released in December the results of the 2011 Monitoring the Future survey, an annual survey to study the behaviors, attitudes, and values of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. Funded by a NIDA grant and conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Michigan lead by psychologist Dr. Lloyd Johnston, the survey showed that reported rates of cigarette and alcohol use among the three age groups were at their lowest point since the survey’s inception in 1975.  Said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, “That cigarette use has declined to historically low rates is welcome news…. 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.”

Rates of marijuana use increased for the fourth year in a row, with high school seniors reporting daily use at the highest rate in 30 years. Synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or spice, was included in the survey for the first time, and 11.4 percent of 12th graders surveyed reported using the drug in the past year. Reported rates of non-medical use of prescription drugs, including the opioid painkillers Vicodin and OxyContin as well as ADHD medicines, also remained high. Last spring APA’s Science GRO organized a briefing, hosted by the Friends of NIDA coalition in conjunction with the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus,  titled Marijuana Use Disorders: Dependence and Treatment Research, with critical research findings presented by Dr. Volkow and by Dr. Alan Budney of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The Monitoring the Future survey is one of three major surveys sponsored by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services that provide data on substance use among youth. The others are the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.