Vaping Popular, Opioid Misuse Low Among U.S. Teens,
Overall Illicit Drug Use Among Teens Trending Down or Stable
NEW YORK – DECEMBER 14, 2017 – The National Institutes of Health’s Monitoring the Future Study (MTF), conducted by the University of Michigan, is an annual survey tracking teen drug abuse among approximately 43,000 8th-, 10th and 12th graders, shows nearly 1 in 3 students in 12th grade reported past-year use of some kind of vaping device. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The new MTF data found that electronic vaping has become more popular among teens, as the substances teens are vaping range from nicotine to marijuana to “just flavoring.”
The MTF survey asked teens about “any vaping” to measure their use of electronic vaporizers and showed that 27.8 percent of high-school seniors reported vaping in the past year. MTF data also showed that 51.8 percent of 12th graders who reported vaping said they use “just flavoring,” 32.8 percent said “nicotine” and 11.1 percent said “marijuana” or “hash oil” during their last use. The survey also asked about vaping with specific substances during the entire year and found that nearly 1 in 10 high-school seniors said they used nicotine, while about 1 in 20 reported using marijuana in the electronic device.
“Teens might not fully understand that vaping is, in fact, just as addictive as smoking, but with unknown long-term health consequences,” said Fred Muench, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “The research shows that teens are likely to move on to smoking regular cigarettes after vaping – making it critical for parents to educate themselves and stay on top of the latest trends in teen substance use in order to empower their kids from making harmful choices.”
Opioid Use Among Teens at a Historic Low
While opioid overdoses remain high among adults in the U.S., teens in school are now misusing opioid pain medicines less frequently than they were a decade ago. According to the survey, misuse of some of the more popular prescription (Rx) opioid medications is at historic lows among teens in school. Among high-school seniors, past-year misuse of the Rx opioid Vicodin dropped to its lowest point since the survey began measuring it in 2002, and is now at just 2 percent. This reflects a long-term decline from a peak of 10.5 percent in 2003.
In tracking overall misuse of pain medication described as “narcotics other than heroin” in the survey, past year misuse has dropped significantly among 12th graders since its MTF data confirmed its peak in 2004 – to 4.2 percent from 9.5 percent. Teens surveyed also reported that they believe opioids are now more difficult to obtain than in years past. Only 35.8 percent of 12th graders said they were easily available in the 2017 survey, compared to more than 54 percent in 2010.
Reflecting an historic low, high school seniors reported past year misuse of the prescription opioid OxyContin at 2.7 percent, compared to 5.5 percent at its peak in 2005.
“The Partnership has been working for quite some time through our Medicine Abuse Project to drive down teen initiation of opioid misuse and abuse. While this behavior continues at a critical level among older age groups, it is encouraging to see that we are seeing steady progress among teens,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, Chief Policy Officer for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
Overall Marijuana Use Stable, Daily Marijuana More Popular than Daily Cigarette Use Among HS Seniors
Representing a dramatic reversal in use of marijuana and cigarettes, daily marijuana use has become more popular than daily cigarette smoking among high-school seniors. Over the past decade, daily marijuana use among 12th graders remained relatively stable, while daily cigarette smoking has dropped.
When combining responses in all three grades, the data suggest past year marijuana use is up slightly to 23.9 percent, from 22.6 percent last year, but similar to 2015 rates (23.7 percent). However, overall marijuana rates remain stable. The survey also indicates that significantly fewer teens in school now disapprove of regular marijuana use, with 64.7 percent of 12th graders voicing disapproval, compared to 68.5 percent last year.
The MTF data showed that high-school seniors who live in states where medical marijuana is legal are more likely to have vaped marijuana and consumed marijuana edibles, than their counterparts who live in states without such laws. For example, the MTF survey data suggest that 16.7 percent of 12th graders in states with medical marijuana laws report consuming edibles, compared to 8.3 percent in states without such laws.
“While we are pleased to see that overall marijuana use has stabilized among high-school students, the fact that daily use of marijuana is now more popular than cigarette smoking among 12th graders is extremely alarming,” said Taylor. “The data also found that more teens report using marijuana edibles in states where marijuana has been legalized, and this is a softening of attitudes about the dangers associated with this drug. Clearly, we need to invest in prevention efforts and effective resources, like the Partnership’s Marijuana Talk Kit, that empower parents to talk with the kids about the risks associated with marijuana use.”
Teen Misuse and Abuse of Rx Stimulants Trending Downward
Misuse of prescription stimulants, commonly prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is mostly stable compared to last year, with 5.5 percent of 12th graders reporting past-year misuse of Adderall. This is a significant drop among the same age group from five years ago, when misuse peaked at 7.6 percent. Also among 12th graders, past-year misuse of the Rx stimulant Ritalin dropped to 1.3 percent, nearly a record low when it was 5.1 percent in 2001. Compared to last year, there was also significant decline this year among 8th graders’ past-year use of Ritalin, now at 0.4 percent in 2017 and down significantly from 2.9 in 2001.
“The percentage of teens who report abusing stimulants, although trending downward in the right direction, is still too high. There is still work to be done to correct the perception of safety around these products and make teens aware of the physical and mental health risks of misusing these substances as ‘study drugs,’” said Taylor.
“It is critical to remember that while today’s news from MTF about the downward trends in teen substance use is encouraging, we cannot take our focus off of the prescription drug and heroin crisis that is still growing exponentially among other age groups across the U.S. As a nation, it is imperative that we focus more of our attention and valuable resources on early intervention that address substance use disorders, rather than trying to clean up a problem that has reached epidemic levels – as is the case with the current opioid epidemic in America.”
The 2017 MTF survey of approximately 43,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades also found that:
- Overall, illicit drug use (other than marijuana and inhalants) remains the lowest in the history of the MTF survey across all three grades, with 13.3 percent of 12th graders reporting past year use, compared to 9.4 percent of 10th graders and 5.8 percent of 8th graders.
- Inhalant use, usually the only category of drugs used more by younger teens than their older counterparts – is back among 8th graders to 2015 levels, now 4.7 percent, compared to 3.8 percent in 2016. However, overall inhalant use is still relatively low, showing a significant decline from peak rates in 1995, when 12.8 percent of 8th graders reported using an inhalant to get high in the past year.
- After years of steady decline, binge drinking alcohol appears to have leveled off this year, and rates of drinking are still down significantly from the survey’s peak years. Binge drinking is defined as having five or more alcohol drinks in a row, “sometime in the last two weeks.”
- Cocaine use remains low with 12th graders reporting past-year use at 2.7 percent, after a peak of 6.2 percent in 1999.
- Past-year use of LSD among 12th graders is now at 3.3 percent, reflecting a modest, but significant increase over the past five years. Use still remains low when compared to its peak 8.8 percent in 1996.
- Past year use of K2/Spice, also known as “synthetic marijuana” remains relatively low among 12th graders who reported use at 3.7 percent, down from 11.3 percent five years ago. There was also a significant drop in past-year use among 8th graders, from 2.7 percent in 2016 to just 2 percent in this year’s survey.
- Among the nation’s teens who are still in school, the proportion of secondary school students using heroin and methamphetamine remains very low, with reported use of these illicit drugs at less than one half percent for reported past-year use.
Customized Partnership Resources Help Address Teen Substance Use: The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has remained a forerunner in providing comprehensive resources on substance use and addiction for parents and families in need. In creating all of the Partnership’s tools and resources, we utilize evidence-based concepts such as Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) and motivational interviewing to help parents obtain the best possible outcomes for getting their child into treatment and on the path to recovery. From identifying risk factors and intervening with early use to navigating the treatment system, the Partnership helps families find answers and get treatment help for their child.
Personalized One-On-One Support Via the Partnership’s National Parent Helpline, Online Chat: Through the growth of the Partnership’s national Parent Helpline (1-855-DRUGFREE) along with the new, online chat feature, we have connected more than 10,000 families to master’s level specialists who have helped them develop a plan to address their child’s substance use. Unlike traditional helplines, which are typically crisis-based, once parents speak with one of our bilingual specialists, they can work with a trained parent coach for five sessions and receive one-on-one guidance that is personalized for their family’s individual needs.
The Teen Vaping Trend – What Parents Need to Know: The Partnership has a resource for parents on teen vaping and its risks to give parents the facts on the potential dangers that can result from vaping. Parents can also learn information about vaping like slang terms, what vaping looks like, how it is used and signs to look for to determine if teens are vaping on the Partnership’s drug guide page.
Marijuana Talk Kit for Parents: Learn why pot is still risky for teens, what you should and shouldn’t say when talking with your teen, and how to respond to their questions with the Partnership’s Marijuana Talk Kit.
Comprehensive Resources to Help Families Address the Opioid Crisis: With funding and support from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) in the eastern United States, the Partnership launched a comprehensive resource to help families and communities address the country’s opioid crisis. Heroin and Other Opioids: From Understanding to Action provides parents with information and support for their family and treatment resources for their loved one. A short, powerful animated film explains how someone can go from abusing and misusing prescription pain medicine to heroin use and the devastation this epidemic has had on our communities.
The Medicine Abuse Project: With the ultimate goal of preventing half a million teens from misusing or abusing medicine, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids continues the momentum of the Medicine Abuse Project, a national mobilization program to help educate parents, teens and the public about the dangers of medicine abuse. Launched in 2012, the Project aims to drive awareness and action, encouraging parents to safeguard the medications in their home, talk with their families about the dangers of medicine abuse and get help for a loved one if they may have a problem.
# # # # #