Continued Decline in Adolescent Substance Use Post-Pandemic, Reveals Latest Survey

December 14th, 2023 Culture & Lifestyle
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The latest findings from the Monitoring the Future survey, conducted by the University of Michigan and financed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reveal a significant trend in adolescent behavior. The 2023 data indicates that the percentage of teenagers using illicit substances has remained below the pre-pandemic levels noted in 2020. This continuation suggests a lasting change in substance use patterns among adolescents following the initial drop observed after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, which annually collects self-reported data on substance use from eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, showed that in 2023, 10.9% of eighth graders, 19.8% of 10th graders, and 31.2% of 12th graders reported using any illicit drugs in the past year. These figures, although reflective of the lowered levels of 2022, highlight a steady trend in adolescent behavior.

Richard Miech, the study's lead at U-M's Institute for Social Research, emphasized the importance of these findings. He noted that the persistent decline in teen substance use is significant, potentially indicating long-term reductions in future drug use trajectories. The survey, which also measures students' perceptions of drug harm, disapproval of use, and perceived availability, is crucial for understanding and tracking these behavioral trends.

In 2023, the survey captured responses from 22,318 students across 235 schools in the U.S. and found that the most commonly reported substances were alcohol, nicotine vaping, and cannabis. Notably, alcohol use among eighth and 10th graders remained stable, while there was a decline in use among 12th graders. Nicotine vaping showed a stable trend in eighth graders but declined in the higher grades. Cannabis use remained steady across all three grades surveyed.

For the first time in 2023, the survey included questions on Delta-8 THC use, revealing that 11.4% of 12th graders reported using this substance in the past year. Other illicit drug use outside of marijuana also remained stable among the surveyed grades.

In terms of abstinence from marijuana, alcohol, and nicotine, there was an increase among 12th graders, with 62.6% reporting no use of these substances in the past month. The rates remained stable for eighth and 10th graders.

The diversity of the survey's respondents was notable, with a broad representation across different racial and ethnic groups. Additionally, the survey methodology adapted to the pandemic's impact, with the majority of students completing it in person at school. However, there is an acknowledgment that those less engaged in school, a group at higher risk for drug use, might be underrepresented in these findings.

This study's results are crucial in understanding teen behavior and guiding public health strategies, especially in the context of changing policies and access to substances like Delta-8 THC.

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