Good news in the fight against drug abuse in teens

Will Wooton, Director of Pacific Treatment Services, writes for Pomerado News and is the and co-author of “Bring Your Teen Back From The Brink.” PTS is a substance abuse company working with teens and young adults.

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Good news in the fight against drug abuse in teens
Since 1975, the U.S. Department of Health has conducted surveys on 12th-grade students and substance abuse. Since that time, the survey has grown to include other grades for a more accurate picture on trends.

Each year I look at the numbers and read through the report. The Monitoring The Futures survey (MTF) for 2014 measures not only drug use but also attitudes of students toward each drug. The latest results show some great signs in abuse and a few scary trends about perceived dangers.

The really good news is that the abuse of major drugs is down or steady this year compared to past years. Marijuana remained steady among 8th graders at 6.5 percent, 10th graders at 16.6 percent and 12th graders at 21.2 percent. Close to 6 percent of 12th graders report daily use of marijuana. There was a sharp rise in edible marijuana products being consumed. Sadly, 16.4 percent reported believing occasional abuse puts them in any risk; down from 27.4 percent five years ago.

Abuse of prescription drugs trended lower by 1 percent in the last year to 6.15 percent; down from a high in 2004 of 9.5 percent. Vicodin showed the largest drop out of all medications. Over-the-counter medications, such as cough and cold medications, was also down among all grade levels. ADHD medications (which include Adderall and Ritalin) remained unchanged at 6.8 percent year over year. These also show a high level of acceptance for abuse and extremely high accessibility due to so many kids having unmonitored prescriptions.

Drinking alcohol continued its gradual decline in all grades surveyed. Eighth, 10th and 12th graders reported a past month use of 9.0 percent, 23.5 percent and 37.4 percent respectively, compared to 10.2 percent, 25.7 percent, and 39.2 percent last year.

MDMA/molly/ecstasy was down among 10th graders to 2.3 percent, from 3.6 percent in 2013, now just about one third of the 2001 peak level of 6.2 percent.

The one new addition to the study this year was the use of electronic cigarettes. Past-month use by 8th graders is 8.7 percent, for 10th graders is 16.2 percent, and for 12th graders is 17.1 percent. This will be a interesting one to follow. As general acceptance of electronic smoking devices is losing popularity with adults, the marketing has shifted towards young adults and teens.

The MTF is a survey conducted by the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor of over 375 public and private schools and samples of over 41,000 students. MTF is one of three major surveys sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provide data on substance use among youth. I find it helpful to look at what is happening each year with teens.

I would encourage each parent to know about illegal drug use and be able to talk with his or her kids about what’s happening. It’s impossible to have an honest conversation about drugs with a teen if they know more then you do about them.