Statement of Steve Pasierb, President
New York, NY – The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study (MTF) – the largest survey on teen drug abuse tracking over 46,000 8th, 10th and 12th graders – shows that teens’ daily use of marijuana, especially among 8th graders, has increased significantly, with overall illicit drug use among this group jumping to 16 percent, up from 14.5 percent in 2009. The MTF survey also points to marked increases in Ecstasy use and underscores that intentional abuse of prescription (Rx) medicines among teens, continues to be a cause for concern, as use remains high across all age groups surveyed.
While abuse of the Rx painkiller Vicodin decreased over the past four years among high school seniors from 9.7 percent to 8 percent, the use of OxyContin, another prescription opiate, stayed about the same for 12th graders at 5.1 percent. The MTF study has also confirmed research from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, showing that kids are obtaining Rx medications from their peers, or through ease of access from the medicine cabinets in their homes, or the homes of family and friends.
Also causing concern is the stalling in the recent decreases in cigarette smoking across all three grades. For 12th graders, specifically, the recent increases in marijuana use have put marijuana ahead of cigarette smoking in some segments.
Mixed News Underscore Parents Can Help Make Difference in the Lives of Their Kids
According to the study, teen alcohol use is moving in the right direction with noted decreases in both alcohol use and binge drinking. Among 12th graders, 23.2 percent reported having had five or more drinks in a row during the past two weeks, down from 25.2 percent just last year and a dramatic drop from the peak of 31.5 percent in 1998.
Also several classes of drugs exhibited a decline in teen use 2010, including narcotics, other than heroin, sedatives and cocaine.
“The new data from the Monitoring the Future survey present a mix of good and bad news for parents,” said Steve Pasierb, President of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “The increases in marijuana and Ecstasy use among teens are disappointing, especially since much progress had been made on both fronts in recent years. With Ecstasy specifically, this erosion in attitudes may represent a ‘generational forgetting’ as more kids enter the teen years and have not been exposed to the messages communicating the dangers of Ecstasy use. That’s where parents come in. It’s moms and dads who can truly do the best job of stressing the health risks of drug and alcohol use to their kids to protect them from the risks these present in their lives. Communication between parents and kids is the most effective prevention tool.”
He added, “We are particularly disturbed by the 6 percent of teens who report using marijuana on a daily basis. Everyday use of marijuana among such a young adolescent group is alarming. We need to remain vigilant and parents who know their child may be using need to intervene.”
For those parents who suspect their child is experimenting with drugs or alcohol, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids developed the resource tool Time To Act. For parents who are faced with a child who is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, Time To Get Help, is a first-of-its-kind website and online community that provides parents with lifesaving information when families are in crisis.
Attitudes Drive Behavior: Perception of Risk, Harm from Marijuana Use Decreased
The MTF survey also measures teen attitudes about drug and alcohol use, including perceived harmfulness and disapproval, factors that can predict future substance abuse. The perception among teens, that regular marijuana use is harmful decreased among 10th and 12th graders, but declined the most among the youngest group of 8th graders.
“The fact that these attitudes are moving in the wrong direction serves as a stark reminder that, collectively, we still have a lot of work to do if we are going to turn the tides again,” said Pasierb. “History tells us that once kids start to view drugs and drug use as less harmful, increased use is sure to follow. But parents can help make the difference by continuing to be the most important influence in the lives of their children. And we know that kids who report learning ‘a lot’ about the dangers of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to use than those who do not get that important message at home.”
To learn more about how to prevent, intervene in and find treatment for drug and alcohol use by teens, visit drugfree.org.