Teens and Drug Use

Teens and marijuana useParents don’t read much good news when it comes to teens and drug use. Media, no doubt, highlight deaths from overdose when it’s a young person involved who no one would suspect of having a drug problem. It can seem like young people are going wild with drugs and that it’s always getting worse. Make no mistake, every teenage death from drug overdose is tragic, and far too many kids are using powerful mind-altering drugs, but facts are facts, and drug use, according to reports from teenagers, is declining, even opioid drug use.

There’s hope that young people are realizing drug use is a dead end street. Many of the opioid overdose deaths we hear about in the news are adult deaths, not teenagers. While this is good news about teens and drug use, teenagers become adults — hopefully the new trend of less drug use will follow today’s teenagers into adulthood. Even marijuana use has dropped, although attitudes about health risks related to use of marijuana have changed. Most young people don’t think there are major health risks associated with regular marijuana use even though fewer young people are smoking marijuana. This could lead to increased use in adulthood as more states legalize marijuana, but maybe not. It’s true that science hasn’t discovered any confirmed, major health risks from marijuana; however, it’s been established that long-term use does negatively effect memory and learning capability.

Alcohol use and binge drinking have also declined among young people. This an excerpt from DrugAbuse.com — 

Alcohol use and binge drinking continued to decline among all grades and for nearly all time period measures. Past-year use of alcohol was reported by 17.6 percent, 38.3 percent, and 55.6 percent of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, respectively, compared to 26.9 percent, 49.8 percent, and 63.5 percent in 2011. Daily alcohol use decreased significantly among 12th graders to 1.3 percent, and binge drinking (consuming five or more drinks sometime in the past 2 weeks) declined among 8th graders to 3.4 percent.

Graph of percentage of students reporting use of alcohol in past year, by grade. Results described in main text of publication.

The percentage of high school students who reported ever using alcohol dropped by as much as 60 percent compared to peak years. This year’s survey found that 22.8 percent of 8th graders reported ever trying alcohol, a 60 percent drop from a peak of 55.8 percent in 1994. Among 10th graders, lifetime use fell by 40 percent from 72.0 percent in 1997 to 43.4 percent this year. Among 12th graders, there was a significant 25 percent drop in lifetime alcohol use from 81.7 percent in 1997 to the current 61.2 percent.

This is good news about teens and drug use — now we need good news about adults and drug use. We need good news all around when it comes to drug use. Maybe kids today are smarter — I certainly hope so. 

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