Teen drug use declines in 2003-04, but concerns remain about inhalants, painkillers

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, results from the annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey indicate an almost 7 percent decline of any illicit drug use in the past month by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders combined from 2003 to 2004. Trend analysis from 2001 to 2004 revealed a 17 percent cumulative decline in drug use, and an 18 percent cumulative drop in marijuana past month use.

“These positive findings demonstrate the commitment by many, including researchers, federal agencies, states, parents, teachers, local communities, and teens themselves, to work together to reduce drug use among our youth,” HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. “We need to continue our efforts to educate parents and teens about the consequences of drug abuse.”

The Monitoring the Future survey is designed to measure drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students nationwide. This year, 49,474 students from 406 public and private schools participated in the survey, which is overseen by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, and conducted by the University of Michigan. Survey participants report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month.

“There are now 600,000 fewer teens using drugs than there were in 2001,” said John Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “This is real progress. We know that if we can prevent kids from trying drugs in their teenage years, we dramatically reduce the likelihood that they will go on to have problems later in life. The results released today are good news for American parents and teens, and great news for our country.”

The positive findings comparing 2004 to 2003 related to individual drugs show:

* past month use of marijuana declined significantly among 8th-graders;

* steroid lifetime use decreased among 8th- and 10-graders;

* past year steroid use decreased for 8th graders;

* lifetime use of LSD decreased significantly among 12th-graders;

* there were significant increases in the perception of harm from cigarette smoking among 8th- and 10th-graders;

* methamphetamine use in the past month, past year, and lifetime decreased among 8th-graders; and,

* past year use of GHB and ketamine declined among 10th-graders.

In 2004, lifetime cigarette smoking decreased in 10th graders, following declines in lifetime use in all grades from 2002 to 2003. There was also evidence of a decrease in heavier smoking among 10th graders with a significant decline in smoking of ½ pack of cigarettes or more per day.

The survey noted some areas that raise concern. For example, while the rates of Vicodin abuse did not change significantly from 2003 to 2004, Vicodin was used by 9.3% of 12th graders, 6.2% of 10th graders and 2.5% of 8th graders in the past year. OxyContin was used in the past year by 5% of 12th graders, 3.5% of 10th graders and 1.7% of 8th graders in 2004. These rates were not significantly different from the rates in 2003; however, when all three grades were combined, there was a significant increase in past year OxyContin use between 2002 and 2004.

“We’re pleased that the survey indicates that overall drug use is continuing to decline. However, it does show an increase in the use of painkillers. We need to target children and young people and warn them about the dangers of abusing these powerful medicines that can help those who need them and can potentially harm those who take them without talking to their doctors first,” said NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni.

The 2004 data also show that lifetime inhalant use for 8th-graders increased significantly. Inhalants are easily accessible in the form of household and office products. Commonly abused inhalants include glue, shoe polish, and gasoline.

“We are concerned about the increasing number of 8th graders using inhalants. Research has found that even a single session of repeated inhalant abuse can disrupt heart rhythms and cause death from cardiac arrest or lower oxygen levels enough to cause suffocation. Regular abuse of these substances can result in serious harm to vital organs including the brain, heart, kidneys, and liver,” said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow.

The MTF survey is funded by NIDA, and has been conducted since its inception in 1975 by the University of Michigan. The information helps identify potential drug problem areas and ensure that resources are targeted to areas of greatest need.

Other Surveys

MTF is one of three major HHS-sponsored surveys that provide data on substance use among youth. Its website is http://monitoringthefuture.org.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), sponsored by HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is the primary source of statistical information on illicit drug use in the U.S. population 12 years of age and older. Formerly known as the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, the survey collects data in household interviews, currently using computer-assisted self-administration for drug-related items. More information is available at http://www.drugabusestatistics.samhsa.gov.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), part of HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, is a school survey that collects data from students in grades 9-12. The survey includes questions on a wide variety of health-related risk behaviors. More information is available at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/index.htm.

From National Institutes of Health

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.