Reality must be improving for young people across the U.S. Teen drug use has declined by 23 percent since 2001, with reductions in the use of nearly every drug, including alcohol and cigarettes, according to the University of Michigan’s 2006 Monitoring the Future study, released in December. This translates into approximately 840,000 fewer youth using illicit drugs in 2006 than in 2001.
The anonymous surveys were obtained from almost 50,000 public and private school students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades. In addition to fewer kids using illicit drugs comes the good news that tobacco usage is down 50 percent over the previous 10 years. Such declines are related, according to the NIH director of drug abuse, because smoking is the real “gateway drug.”
The study also shows that while marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug among teens, current use of marijuana has dropped by 25 percent over the past five years. And for the single year from 2005 to 2006, current marijuana use dropped by 7 percent among all three grades combined.
Teen use of amphetamines, particularly methamphetamine, dropped significantly. The rates for meth use, for all three grades, is either the lowest or among the lowest recorded since the question was first included in the MTF survey. Past-month use of methamphetamine among youth plummeted by 50 percent since 2001, with less than 1 percent (.7 percent) of students using meth at least once in the last 30 days before the interview.
“There has been a sea change among American teens,” said John P. Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy. “They are getting the message that dangerous drugs damage their lives and limit their futures. We know that if people don’t start using drugs during their teen years, they are very unlikely to go on to develop drug problems later in life. That’s why this sharp decline in teen drug use is such important news: It means that there will be less addiction, less suffering, less crime, lower health costs, and higher achievement for this upcoming generation of Americans.”
Monitoring the Future also noted reductions in the following drug categories between 2001 and 2006, including:
- Marijuana use is down in all categories for all grades combined. Lifetime, past year, and past 30 day use decreased 18 percent, 20 percent, and 25 percent (from 35% to 29%; 26% to 22%; and 17% to 13%, respectively)
- Use of cigarettes is down since 2001 in all four use categories (lifetime, past month, daily, and more than one-half pack per day) in all three grades
- Youth use of alcohol was also down across the board — in all five use categories (lifetime, past year, past month, daily, and more than five drinks in a row in the last two weeks) and in all three grades over five years
- The use of steroids was down 40.2 percent, 36.8 percent, and 20.6 percent for lifetime, past year, and past month use, respectively for all three grades combined
- Declines in the hallucinogens LSD and Ecstasy since 2001 have been dramatic, declining by as much as 50 percent to two-thirds.
The MTF study is the largest and most significant survey of youth drug use and measures drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among eighth-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students nationwide. Study participants report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. This year, 48,460 students from 410 public and private schools participated in the survey. The survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of HHS’s National Institutes of Health, and conducted since its inception by the University of Michigan. Information from this study helps the nation to identify potential drug problem areas and ensure that resources are targeted to areas of greatest need.
The complete MTF study results can be viewed at monitoringthefuture.org.