Recent Trends of Teen Drug Abuse

Teenage drug abuse has declined over the past three years, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Drug use among teens has declined by approximately 7 percent from 2003 to 2004 and 4 percent from 2004 to 2005. However, the latest report from the Monitoring the Future (MTF) shows a recent increase in the abuse of inhalants among eighth graders and Oxycontin abuse among all of the students that were surveyed. Monitoring the Future has been studying drug use among teenagers since 1975 and includes surveys of 8th-10th graders and 12th graders in their studies.

Positive trends include: the prevalence of the use of marijuana fell by 21 percent among 8th graders and 19 percent among 10th graders from 2001 to 2005, and lifetime abuse decreased significantly among 10th graders; lifetime and annual abuse of methamphetamines decreased significantly among 8th and 12th graders from 2004 to 2005; lifetime abuse of cigarettes decreased significantly among 8th and 12th graders from 2004 to 2005. Also, 12th graders had significant decreased in daily smoking and in smoking one or more packs a day.

Student’s abuse of the hallucinogens LSD and MDMA plummeted between 2001 and 2004. Lifetime abuse of LSD fell 55 percent, from 6.6 percent to 3.0 percent, and past-year and current abuse both dropped by approximately 60 percent.

Current marijuana abuse declined 18.1 percent, from 16.6 to 13.6 percent; past-year abuse also declined 13.7 percent, from 27.5 to 23.7 percent; and lifetime abuse declined 11.2 percent, from 35.3 to 31.3 percent. In the past two years, students’ perceived risk of abusing marijuana increased markedly; the proportion of teens reporting that it would be easy for them to get the drug has also declined.

Slight decreases were also seen in all grade levels of the use of amphetamines, GHB, and ecstasy. Drugs that continue to show a clear gender difference in prevalence of use are anabolic steroids and cigarettes, which are both more likely to be used by males than females. African American students have lower rates on the following MTF measures compared with Caucasian students:

  • Annual illicit drug abuse among 12th graders
  • Any illicit drug other than marijuana, in all three grade levels
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Alcohol abuse among 10th and 12th grade students (Attorney Generals Report).

Negative trends include: prescription drugs – annual abuse of oxycontin and vicodin continue to raise concern among health care professionals. Abuse of inhalants by 8th-10th graders increased from 15.8 percent to 17.3 percent between 2004 and 2005. The survey also showed that teen’s perceptions of the risks associated with abusing inhalants have declined in the past three years, which suggests a need for increased awareness of the dangerous and often times devastating consequences of abusing inhalants.

The number of high school students abusing oxycontin has also increased from 2004 to 2006. This opioid has a very high potential for addiction and overdose.

Drug abuse is preventable. The overall reduction in teen drug use shows that the partnership between scientists, law enforcement, families, and most importantly the community is making a positive impact. Early intervention and the concerted effort of teachers, counselors, students, and their families are also helping to curb the use of illicit drug use by teens (Teen Drug Abuse continues its Three Year Decline).

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