Monitoring the Future Survey Shows Lowest Drug Usage Levels for Students in Years

Allison DiFonzo, Features Managing Editor

During the spring of 2016, more than 45,000 students from 372 public and private schools nationwide participated in the annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. The MTF survey results were announced Dec. 13 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and revealed that drug use among eighth, 10th and 12th graders has declined for most drugs, including marijuana, alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs.

The 2016 results show that the use of many drugs, including alcohol, cigarettes, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and inhalants, among teenagers is at its lowest level in over four decades. The use of other drugs, including marijuana (among eighth and tenth graders), synthetic cannabinoids (K2/Spice), prescription opioids, hallucinogens, amphetamines and over-the-counter cough and cold medications showed declines over the past five years.

The use of marijuana declined among eighth and 10th graders, but six percent (one in 16) of seniors still consume marijuana on a daily basis. The survey shows that those who live in states where medical marijuana is legal consume more marijuana edibles. In fact, more than 40 percent consumed marijuana in food in states with medical marijuana laws compared to about 28 percent in states without these laws.

“Clearly our public health prevention efforts, as well as policy changes to reduce availability, are working to reduce teen drug use, especially among eighth graders,” NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow said in a press release. “However, when six percent of high school seniors are using marijuana daily, and new synthetics are continually flooding the illegal marketplace, we cannot be complacent.”

According to the survey, binge drinking among eighth graders continues to significantly decline, to about three percent, the lowest rate since the survey began asking about it in 1991. Binge drinking among high school seniors is down a little more than 15 percent, half of what it was in 1998.

With respect to smoking, more sophomores and seniors smoke marijuana on a daily basis than cigarettes. According to the report, seniors are smoking fewer e-cigarettes, yet many do not know what they are inhaling. About 25 percent of seniors believe that their e-cigarettes contained nicotine with more than 62 percent stating they contain “just flavoring.”

“We already know that the youth who are taking up e-cigarettes are more likely to make that transition to traditional combustible tobacco than youth who do not use cigarettes,” NIDA Deputy Director Dr. Wilson Compton said in a video interview on the organization’s website. “But what we don’t know is what’s in these products, so what are youth exposed to when they are trying these new products.”

Vuse electronic cigarettes are becoming more popular this year around MCPS.

“I Vuse once a week and at parties,” senior Bo Walker said. “I know that there is nicotine, but I don’t know if there is anything else in my Vuse.”

Since 1975, students in high schools across the U.S., possibly from RHS, have anonymously reported their drug use behaviors. This unique survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, releases information and data from the same year it is collected making the results as current as possible.