Study examines teen smoking, drug abuse

An annual federal survey finds that large numbers of teens continue to abuse prescription painkillers and sedatives.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted Jan. 30, 2006

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Washington -- There's good and bad news in the latest Monitoring the Future study of adolescents' use of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Although cigarette smoking is at its lowest rate in the history of the annual survey, that decline appears to be nearing an end, said Lloyd Johnston, PhD, research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and the principal investigator for the study.

In addition, while there has been a 19% decline over the last four years in illicit drug use reported by teens during the month before the survey was administered, rates of the nonmedical use of prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin remain high.

The latest survey of 8th-, 10th- and 12th-grade students was released on Dec. 19, 2005. More than 49,000 students in 402 public and private schools were queried for the project, which has surveyed 12th graders since 1976 and 8th and 10th graders since 1991. The survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Teen smoking has fallen by one-third to one-half from peak levels of use in the mid-1990s through 2004 depending on grade level, according to researchers. Currently, about one in 11 8th graders said they had smoked in the past 30 days, as did one in seven 10th graders and nearly one in four 12th graders.

Although those levels are lower than ever, the rate of decline in the use of cigarettes has begun to stall among all grades. In 2005, the decline halted entirely among 8th graders, who have been the bellwethers of smoking trends among teens, the surveyors found.

Dr. Johnston speculated that young students now might be exposed to fewer anti-smoking messages, because federal and state funding for smoking cessation has declined recently and that those messages could have been effective in lowering smoking rates.

The survey also revealed declines in methamphetamine use among 10th and 12th graders; in amphetamine, steroid and ecstasy use among 12th graders; and in marijuana use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders.

But the nonmedical use of Vicodin and OxyContin in the past year continued at high levels, 9.5% and 5.5% respectively, among 12th grade students; sedative and barbiturate use increased among 12th graders since 2001; and inhalant use increased among 8th graders between 2001 and 2005.

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External links

Monitoring the Future's survey on drug and alcohol use by American youth (link)

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