The Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey has measured drug, alcohol and cigarette use among adolescent students nationwide since 1975. Over 40,000 students from almost 400 public and private schools participated in the 2014 MTF survey.
Many of the results are promising with a few notable exceptions. The use of cigarettes, alcohol, and abuse of prescription pain relievers among teens has declined since 2013 while marijuana use rates remained stable. The two major concerns are:
- Almost two-thirds of high school seniors don’t view regular marijuana use as harmful compared to just over one-third 20 years ago.
- The use of e-cigarettes, measured in the report for the first time, is high. In fact, teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than tobacco cigarettes.
“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,” said National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “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.”
Daily cigarette smoking has decreased markedly over the past five years (almost 50 percent) across all grades. “Despite the positive developments this year, we are concerned about the levels of e-cigarette use among teens that we are seeing,” said Lloyd D. Johnston, Ph.D., principal investigator, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. “It would be a tragedy if this product undid some of the great progress made to date in reducing cigarette smoking by teens.”
According to NIDA, while high schoolers are seeing mostly positive outcomes, the news is not as positive for college-age young adults. The use of illicit drugs, including marijuana, has been rising steadily among college-aged young adults. In addition, non-medical use of stimulants, including Adderall and Ritalin, has more than doubled in the past few years.