January 20, 2015 —

Every month, we’re keeping you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at the results of the 2014 Monitoring the Future survey.

Raising teenagers is rewarding, but it can be challenging to keep up with the new and dangerous trends that are associated with alcohol, drug and medicine abuse. Evolving slang terms and glorified substance abuse in pop culture make it difficult to shield our teens from negative influences that may lead to their engagement in high-risk behavior.

Every year the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the University of Michigan conduct a national survey of 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. middle and high school students on trends in substance use for the annual Monitoring the Future survey.

Over the last couple years, over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse among 8th, 10th and 12th graders has been on the continued decline. Last year, we were pleased to see that the abuse of cough medicine among these grade levels dropped to 4% (as compared to the previous two years when the overall average remained at 5%). This year, we are happy to share that the 2014 Monitoring the Future survey reported abuse of cough medicine to be 2.0% among 8th graders, 3.7% among 10th graders and 4.1% among 12th graders, bringing the overall average to 3.2%.

Here are additional highlights from the 2014 study:

  • While teen alcohol use and binge drinking have declined by 2% and 1.6% respectively, 19% of 12th graders still reported engaging in binge drinking at least once in the two weeks prior to the survey.
  • Since the introduction of synthetic marijuana (also known as K-2 or “spice”) to the survey in 2011, use of the drug by 12th graders has dropped from 11% to 6% as the percentage of 12th graders who recognized synthetic marijuana as a dangerous drug rose. However, lead study investigator Lloyd Johnston suggests that this may be due to federal and state efforts to halt the sale of the potent drug, rather than dramatic change in student attitudes.
  • Cigarette smoking reached historical lows among teens in 2014 in all three grades as smoking among teens dropped down to 8%. Increasing disapproval of smoking accompanied the decline in use as the perception of smoking as a health risk has increased.
  • Reports from 12th graders who have misused prescriptions drugs have been declined since 2013 (16% to 14%), as have reports of use of narcotics (7% to 6%).

Although the survey results show signs of progress, they continue to emphasize the importance of prevention efforts and the need to spread awareness of the dangers of teen substance abuse. Learn more about the report’s findings here.