Use of cigarettes, alcohol, and abuse of prescription pain relievers among teens has declined since 2013 while marijuana use rates were stable, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, released in December by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). However, use of e-cigarettes, measured in the report for the first time, is high.
These 2014 results are part of an overall twodecade trend among the nation’s youth of declining substance misuse. The MTF 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. NIDA is part of the National Institutes of Health.
Alcohol use by US teens continued its long-term decline in 2014. All three grades showed a decline in the proportion of students reporting any alcohol use in the 12 months prior to the survey; the three grades combined dropped from 43% to 41%, a statistically significant change. “Since the recent peak rate of 61% in 1997, there has been a fairly steady downward march in alcohol use among adolescents,” said Lloyd Johnston, the study’s principal investigator. “The proportion of teens reporting any alcohol use in the prior year has fallen by about a third.” Of perhaps greater importance, the proportion of teens who report ‘binge drinking’—that is, consuming five or more drinks in a row at least once in the two weeks preceding the survey—fell significantly again this year to 12% for the three grades combined, decreasing from a high point of 22% in 1997. While this is an important improvement, say the investigators, 19% of 12-graders still report binge drinking at least once in the prior two weeks and some 12th-graders drink even more heavily, reporting having 10 or more, or 15 or more, drinks in a row on at least one occasion in the prior two weeks. Since 2005 (the first year that this ‘extreme binge drinking’ was measured), these measures also have declined, from 11% to 7% in 2014 for 10 or more drinks, and from 6% to 4% for 15 or more drinks.