December 23, 2013 —

As parents or family members of teenagers, it is difficult to keep up with all of the dangerous drug, alcohol and medicine abuse trends. With so many slang terms and drug references in pop culture these days, it can seem impossible to understand how susceptible teens actually are to these risky behaviors.

Every year the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the University of Michigan survey the drug use and attitudes among American 8th, 10th and 12th graders for the annual Monitoring the Future survey. The results help parents, teachers and health professionals better understand teen drug, alcohol and medicine abuse trends.

This year, we were pleased to see the continued decline of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse. The 2013 Monitoring the Future survey reported abuse of cough medicine to be 2.9% among 8th graders, 4.3% among 10th graders and 5% among 12th graders, bringing the overall average to 4% (as compared to the last two years when the overall average remained at 5%).

Additional highlights from this year’s survey include more encouraging news as well as some areas of continued concern.

Encouraging News:

  • Cigarette smoking has continued to drop and is currently at its lowest rate in the survey’s history.
  • Five-year trends continue to show significant decreases in alcohol use among all grade levels.
  • Use of the most illicit drugs, such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts, either remained steady or declined.
  • The nonmedical use of prescription medications, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, continued to drop.
  • Use of inhalants is at its lowest levels in the history of the survey.

Areas of Concern:

  • Five-year trends show significant increases in marijuana use across all three grades as well as increases in lifetime and daily marijuana use among 10th graders.
  • The use of tobacco products other than cigarettes, such as the use of hookahs, has increased among high school seniors.
  • Abuse of prescription stimulants has continued to rise, especially among 12th graders.
  • The perceived risk of harm of marijuana and prescription drugs has decreased, which could signify a rise in future use levels.

Many of results of this year’s Monitoring the Future Survey are promising and demonstrate that prevention efforts make a difference, but we understand that there is still work to do. Read more about the report findings here and post your questions and comments below.