Teens Using Less Alcohol, Ecstasy, More Narcotics: The Use of Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin, and Others Drugs Remained Unchanged. (Mixed Results)

By Brunk, Doug | Clinical Psychiatry News, February 2003 | Go to article overview

Teens Using Less Alcohol, Ecstasy, More Narcotics: The Use of Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin, and Others Drugs Remained Unchanged. (Mixed Results)


Brunk, Doug, Clinical Psychiatry News


The latest Monitoring the Future survey of substance use among adolescents in the United States has yielded mixed results.

Cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and Ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) use declined. But the use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs reained statistically unchanged.

In addition, the use of crack cocaine rose significantly among 10th graders, and the nonmedical use of OxyContin and Vicodin ranged from 1% to 10% among all adolescents surveyed.

"There were some important changes from last year's survey, but we have a long way to go, said Lloyd Johnston, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who has been the survey's principal investigator since its inception in 1975.

Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monitoring the Future has tracked substance use among high school seniors for 28 years and among 8th and 10th graders for 12 years. In 2002, about 44,000 students in about 400 schools nationwide participated in the survey which is considered one of the most reliable sources of information on adolescent substance use.

Among the survey highlights:

* Cigarette use declined in each grade. Between 2001 and 2002, reported lifetime use of cigarettes dropped among young people from 37% to 31% among 8th graders, from 53% to 47% among 10th graders, and from 61% to 57% among 12th graders. Past month use, meanwhile, ranged from 11% among 8th graders to 30% among 12th graders. While Dr. Johnston called the declines in use among each grade "important," Neil Grunberg, Ph.D., called the percentages "disturbing."

"The absolute numbers are really horrible, considering that 25% of the U.S. adult population are regular smokers," said Dr. Grunberg, professor of medical and clinical psychology and neuroscience at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md.

Dr. Johnston noted that the rates of smoking among 8th graders have dropped nearly 50% since 1991. "That's a big change, and it's going to have enormous implications for the health and longevity of this generation of young people," he said.

* Alcohol use declined in each grade. Students who reported they drank alcohol in the past year dropped from 42% to 39% among 8th graders, from 64% to 60% among 10th graders, and 73% to 72% among 12th graders. There were also declines in the proportions of students who said they got drunk in the previous year and in the previous 30 days. For example, the proportions of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 who said they were drunk at least once in the 30 days before the survey were 7%, 18%, and 30% in 2002. The latter two rates are high, but Dr. Johnston noted that all three are down 1-4 percentage points from the previous year.

* Ecstasy use is down in each grade. The 1-year declines ranged from about one-tenth to nearly one-third. …

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