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2016 Monitoring the Future Survey Results Include Good News About Teen Drug Use

January 17, 2017

Teen Drug Use Survey Results 2016

Each year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse partners with other federal health organizations to conduct the Monitoring the Future Survey. Part of the purpose of the survey is to gage what types of substances teens of various ages are abusing and how often they might be doing so. Historically, the survey has never turned up a zero percent use of drugs, indicating that drug use among middle and high school students continues to be an issue parents should understand. The 2016 survey does have some positive news on this front, though.

Illicit drug use continues to decline

One of the most positive notes coming out of last year's survey is that illicit drug use among youth seems to be in an overall decline. The survey includes students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades, and overall drug use dropped in all three categories in the past year. This follows a trend downward of several years, and the numbers are much lower than peak years for all three grades.

The survey indicates that use of cigarettes and alcohol are down, as is use of heroin, cocaine, inhalants and meth. Only 12th graders reported using sedatives, and those percents were down from previous years too.

For more statistics on the Trends of cigarrette use see tables here.

Marijuana use unchanged in higher grades

Marijuana is one of the few substances that didn't see a decline in use across the board. Use of cannabis and related products was down for 8th and 10th graders, but remained stable for 12th graders. One issue might be that the perception of harm associated with marijuana is declining for all grade levels; in 2016, only about a third of 12th graders reported believing that regular marijuana use would be harmful. Over 2/3 of the same students, however, did note that they disapproved of marijuana use on a regular basis.

Teen Marijuana Use and disapproval stats

Alcohol use is on a steady decline

Since the 1990s, alcohol has seen a steady decline in use by all age groups. In fact, as of 2016, reports of alcohol use and binge drinking on the survey are at an almost all-time low. Still, the numbers are probably higher than most parents would like. Almost 18 percent of 8th graders reported using alcohol at least once in the past, and the numbers rose to 38 and 55 percent for 10th and 12th graders. In fact, 1.3 percent of 12th graders reported drinking on a daily basis -- an indication of a possible addiction -- and 3.4 percent of 8th graders said they had engaged in binge drinking!

See more tables on high school aged teenagers alcohol use here. 

Teen outlook on drug use could be worrisome

While the downward slope in teen substance use is a great accomplishment for awareness campaigns and anti-drug movements, millions of teens are still experimenting with drugs and alcohol, so parents must remain aware.

The Monitoring the Future Survey also polls teens about how they feel about drugs and drug use, and in 2016, there was a decrease in disapproval among teens regarding a number of drugs. For example, fewer teens in the 8th grade category thought taking synthetic drugs such as bath salts or substances such as Ecstasy occasionally was a bad thing. Tenth graders were less likely to perceive inhalant experimentation or synthetic drugs as harmful.

These changing perspectives make parent-teen interaction on drug topics essential; don't rely on school or other programs to help shape how your child sees substance abuse. If you believe that your teen might already be dealing with drug use or abusing drugs -- from illicit drugs such as heroin to prescriptions like Xanax -- don't be afraid to reach out for help our support. You can call the Teen Treatment Center now to speak with a caring counselor. (844)319-5239


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