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What Do Teens Think about Drug Abuse? Highlights from the 2017 Monitoring the Future Survey

Teenage boy looking sad.

If you listen to some people, you might think that teenagers are getting hooked on drugs more frequently than ever before. Is that really the case? And if so, to which drugs are they turning?

These questions and others are explored in a biannual report issued by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. The 2017 version of their Monitoring the Future report, which was released in June, revealed the answers to survey questions asked to eighth-, tenth, and twelfth-graders across the U.S. about their drug use.

The entire report is 565 pages long. If you don’t have time to peruse the whole thing, here are some of the highlights you’ll find inside it:

  • Page 10: Marijuana usage is up slightly. The report showed that 23.9 percent of the students in the three grades consumed marijuana in the previous year, which is 1.3 percentage points higher than in 2015.
  • Page 11: Inhalants are still popular among young teens. The use of inhalants such as spray paint, paint thinner, or glue among eighth graders rose sharply to 4.7 percent last year from 3.8 percent in the previous report.
  • Page 15: Alcohol may be gaining in popularity again among the younger crowd. Some 23.1 percent of eighth graders admitted to drinking booze at least once in their lives. That figure increased from the previous report for the first time since 1991.
  • Page 31: Almost as many high school graduates have tried an illicit drug as those that have not. Among twelfth-graders, 49 percent admit that they have consumed an illicit drug in their lifetime – though for three out of five of these individuals, the drug in question has been marijuana.
  • Page 32: About one in 17 twelfth-graders uses marijuana on a regular basis. For tenth-graders, about half as many teens (2.9 percent vs. 5.9 percent) use pot regularly, which is defined as at least twenty times in the previous thirty days.
  • Page 33: After marijuana, amphetamines are the drug of choice. The second-most popular illicit drug among tenth- and twelfth-graders is amphetamines, with past-year use percentages at 8.2 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively.
  • Page 36: Roughly one in every six twelfth-graders is a binge drinker. When asked if they had consumed five or more drinks in a sitting in the previous two weeks, 16.6 percent said yes; plus, 6 percent admitted to downing ten or more drinks in a row and 3.1 percent claimed to have drunk 15 in a row.

Teenage boy and girl smoking marijuana.

  • Page 41: Pot is more frequently consumed “daily” than cigarettes. For the first time, more daily users in the tenth and twelfth grades say they smoke marijuana as opposed to cigarettes. 
  • Page 43: Young teen girls are just as likely to use drugs as their male peers. Although more boys than girls in the tenth and twelfth grades admit to drug use, the gender-specific percentages among eighth-graders are much closer for most drugs as to be statistically insignificant.
  • Page 44: Getting drunk is not just a guy thing anymore. Among students who admitted to getting drunk in the past thirty days, the percentages for both boys and girls were pretty close in all grades.
  • Page 45: College aspirations make a difference. Among eighth graders who planned to attend college, only 8.8 percent said they had consumed marijuana in the past year; but that number was much higher (21 percent) for those who didn’t plan to pursue higher education.

Hopefully, parents can use this information to help their approach to keep their teenaged kids drug-free. After all, the best defense against drug use is a strong relationship between parents and kids, which involves communication, trust, and honesty about the dangers of alcohol and illicit substances.

If your teenager is using illicit drugs, contact us for help on how to address the problem.

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