While fewer teens smoked tobacco, used alcohol or abused prescription pain killers in 2014 compared with 2013, use of marijuana in the demographic remained the same.
For the first time, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also measured electronic cigarette use among teens and found it to be “high.”
Daily cigarette use has plummeted among teens nearly 50% over the last five years. Among eighth graders, it dropped to 1.4% compared to 2.7% five years ago. And among high school seniors, it dropped to 6.7%, down from 8.5% in 2013 and 11.2% five years ago.
Past year use of narcotics other than heroin (including opioid pain relievers) was reported by 6.1% of high school seniors, compared with 7.1% in 2013. In 2004, it peaked at 9.5%. Past month use of marijuana remained steady year-over-year among eighth graders at 6.5%, 10th graders at 16.6% and 12th graders at 21.2%.
For e-cigarettes, 8.7% of eighth graders reported past month use. Among 10th graders, the figure was 16.2%, and for 12th graders it was 17.1%.
“With the rates of many drugs decreasing, and the rates of marijuana use appearing to level off, it is possible that prevention efforts are having an effect,” NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D., said in a statement. “It is now more important than ever for the public health community to continue to educate teens, parents, teachers, community leaders, the media and health care providers about the specific harms of drug use among teens, whose brains are still developing.”
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These 2014 results are part of an overall two-decade trend among the nation’s youth. The survey measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, is funded by NIDA, and is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Studies have found that teens have increased use of nicotine patches, e-cigarettes and energy drinks.