Monitoring the Future 2016: Be Encouraged but Stay Focused

By Stop Medicine Abuse Posted January 03, 2017 under Not My Teen

Every month, we keep you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at the results of the 2016 Monitoring the Future survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

As parents, we work all year to ensure our teens stay healthy and safe. Whether it’s a conversation at the dinner table or an anti-drug campaign, we are always striving to educate our teens about the dangers of substance abuse. Although we can evaluate progress in our own home, it can be difficult to measure our collective success.

Every December, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the University of Michigan conduct a national survey of 40,000 to 50,000 middle and high school students on trends in substance abuse. Their annual Monitoring the Future survey reveals information about overall teen attitudes, education and use – or misuse – of substances. 

NIDA began monitoring teenage abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM) a decade ago. In 2006, teen OTC cough medicine abuse was at just under 6 percent. Ten years later, that percentage has declined to 3.2 percent. Looking at the individual grades, OTC cough medicine abuse among 10th and 12th graders hit its lowest recorded percentage in 2016, at 3 and 4 percent respectively. Cough medicine abuse among 8th graders, however, increased by 1 percent since the 2015 survey to 2.6 percent. The overall percentage of teens who have abused OTC cough medicine in the past month has remained at 3.2 for two years.

These findings are promising and certainly show that prevention efforts are working, but we urge parents, educators, retailers, healthcare providers and community leaders to continue to work together to keep OTC cough medicine abuse rates down. Learn how you can take action today.

Here are additional key findings from the 2016 survey: 

  • Alcohol abuse continued to decline this year, but it remains the substance most frequently abused by teenagers, with 7.3 percent of 8th graders, 19.9 percent of 10th graders and 33.2 percent of 12th graders reporting drinking in the past month. 
  • The use of tobacco cigarettes has continued to drop across each grade level, reflecting the success of policy changes and public health campaigns. However, the popularity of e-cigarettes is rising. NIDA found that teens were 4 percent more likely to smoke e-cigs than tobacco cigarettes, without knowing their ingredients. E-cigs may contain nicotine, as well as flavoring.
  • Marijuana use has fluctuated in the past 20 years. Past-month use was 5 percent, 14 percent and 22 percent among 8th, 10th and 12th graders respectively. Interestingly, 68.9 percent of high school seniors do not view regular marijuana smoking as harmful, but 68.5 percent disapprove of regular marijuana smoking. 
  • Prescription and illicit drugs saw a decline across all grade levels. Notably, the use of Vicodin® has dropped nearly 5 percent in the past 5 years.


While we are encouraged by these results, substance abuse continues to impact families, schools and communities. NIDA’s survey reminds us that our prevention efforts have made a difference, but there is still work to be done.

How will you contribute to the fight against substance abuse in 2017? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.