|NIDA Survey Shows a Decline in Smoking and Illicit
Drug Use Among Eighth Graders
Prescription Drug Abuse Still High For 12th Graders
The nation’s eighth graders took center stage in this year’s Monitoring
the Future (MTF) survey, showing a significant decline in both
smoking and illicit drug use in the past year, part of a downward
trend for all measured age groups in the last decade. In addition,
eighth graders showed a substantial long-term decline in past-year
alcohol use, down to 31.8 percent from its recent peak of 46.8
percent in 1994. The Monitoring the Future project — now
in its 33rd year — is a series of independent surveys of
8th, 10th, and 12th graders conducted by researchers at the University
of Michigan under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse
(NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Results
from the 2007 survey were announced today at a news conference
at the White House.
The 2007 results appear to reflect an ongoing cultural shift among
teens and their attitudes about smoking and substance abuse. Lifetime,
past-month, and daily smoking among eighth graders has dropped
considerably in the past year, and daily cigarette smoking among
eighth graders dropped from 4 percent to 3 percent; down from its
10.4 percent peak in 1996. Similarly, annual prevalence of marijuana
use by eighth graders fell from 11.7 percent in 2006 to 10.3 percent
in 2007, and is down from its 1996 peak of 18.3 percent.
"Over the last decade, there has been a large science-based
effort throughout the public health community to drive down the
rates of smoking, illicit drug, and alcohol use among teens," said
NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "These results show us
we are definitely seeing a decline in substance abuse among our
youngest and most vulnerable teens, and we are committed to continuing
"We are especially heartened to see the decrease in smoking
among eighth graders, and will be watching the next two years closely
to see if this decline will stick as these kids get older," said
NIDA director Nora D. Volkow. "If this change in attitude
is carried with them throughout the rest of their teen years, we
could see a dramatic drop in smoking-related deaths in their generation."
The survey also showed that while past-year use of marijuana declined
among 8th graders in 2007, it remained steady among 10th and 12th
graders. However, in the past decade, there has been a slow downward
trend in overall illicit drug use driven by gradual declines in
marijuana smoking. Past-year marijuana use among 10th graders sits
at 24.6 percent after it peaked in 1997 at 34.8 percent. Similarly,
past-year marijuana use among 12th graders registers at 31.7 percent
after a 1997 peak of 38.5 percent.
The survey results are not without concerns, however. Prescription
drug abuse remains high with virtually no significant drop in nonmedical
use of most individual prescription drugs. Vicodin remains one
of the most commonly abused drugs among 12th graders: 1 in 10 reported
nonmedical use in the past year. The Monitoring the Future Survey
traditionally measures misuse of a variety of different prescription
drugs including opiates like Vicodin and OxyContin, amphetamines
(including Ritalin), sedatives/barbiturates, and tranquilizers,
as well as over-the-counter drugs, such as cough syrup. However,
for the first time this year, researchers pulled together data
for all prescription drugs as a measurable group, and 15.4 percent
of high school seniors reported nonmedical use of at least one
of these prescription medications within the past year. Recent
data for consuming 5+ drinks in a row in the last two weeks — an
especially dangerous pattern of consumption — have remained
steady at worrisome levels for all three grades. In addition, recent
data for drinking have remained steady at high levels, particularly
for 10th and 12th graders.
Another concern in the survey is the softening of attitudes towards
MDMA (ecstasy) and LSD in the younger grades. For the third year
in a row, there was a decrease in perceived harmfulness of MDMA
among eighth graders. Among 10th graders, there was a decrease
in perceived harmfulness of LSD and MDMA and a decrease in disapproval
of LSD. Concurrently, there has been an increase in past-year MDMA
use in 10th and 12th graders over the past two years.
"We will be watching what happens with MDMA and LSD use in
future surveys," said Dr. Volkow. "This decrease in both
disapproval and perceived harmfulness among eighth graders shows
us that we need to be vigilant in our educational efforts with
every drug in each succeeding generation."
Since 1975, the MTF survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette
use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide.
Survey participants report their drug use behaviors across three
time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. Overall, 48,025
students from 403 public and private schools in the 8th, 10th,
and 12th grades participated in this year's survey. The survey
has been conducted since its inception by investigators at the
University of Michigan. Additional information on the Monitoring
the Future Survey, as well as comments from Dr. Nora Volkow can
be found at http://www.drugabuse.gov/Drugpages/MTF.html
MTF is one of three major Health and Human Services (HHS)-sponsored
surveys that provide data on substance use among youth. Its Web
site is http://monitoringthefuture.org.
More information on MTF can be found at http://www.hhs.gov/news;
Additional details are also available at http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/MTF.html.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), sponsored
by HHS' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,
is the primary source of statistical information on illicit drug
use in the U.S. population 12 years of age and older. 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-based survey that collects data from students
in grades 9–12. The survey includes questions on a wide variety
of health-related risk behaviors, including drug abuse. More information
is available at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/index.htm.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National
Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects
of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large
variety of programs to inform policy and improve practice. Fact
sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information
on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA
home page at www.drugabuse.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.