New Study Shows Decline in Teen Drug Use
Tuesday, December 11, 2007; 10:50 PM
WASHINGTON -- Illicit drug use by teens continued to gradually decline overall this year, but the use of prescription painkillers remains popular among young people, according to a federally financed study released Tuesday at the White House.
The survey, by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, looked at the behavior of 8th, 10th and 12th graders nationwide.
The proportion of 8th graders reporting use of an illicit drug at least once in the 12 months prior to the survey was 24 percent in 1996. It now has fallen to 13 percent _ a drop of nearly half.
Among 10th graders, the rates dropped from 39 percent to 28 percent between 1997 and 2007. Twelfth graders saw a decline from a peak of 42 percent in 1997 to 36 percent this year.
"The cumulative declines since recent peak levels of drug involvement in the mid-1990s are quite substantial especially among the youngest students," said Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the study, which was financed by the National Institute on Drug Use. It surveyed 50,000 teens.
The drugs most responsible for this year's decline in illicit drug use are marijuana and various stimulants, including amphetamines, methamphetamine and crystal methamphetamine.
"The most encouraging statistic relates to the use of methamphetamine, which has plummeted by an impressive 64 percent since 2001," President Bush said.
"One exception to this trend is a rise in the abuse of certain prescription painkillers," Bush said. "This is troubling, and we're going to continue to confront the challenge and the overall direction is hopeful."
At least one in every 20 high-school seniors has at least tried OxyContin, a powerful narcotic drug, in the past year, the study said. The popularity of the painkiller Vicodin also remained constant. The percentage of students using Vicodin was 2.7 percent, 7.2 percent and 9.6 percent in 8th, 10th and 12th grades, respectively.
While the use of most illicit drugs has shown declines in the past decade or so, most prescription psychotherapeutic drugs did not. A number of them showed steady increases in use outside of their legitimate medical purpose. These include sedatives, tranquilizers and narcotic drugs other than heroin.
The study also reported an increase in the use of ecstasy. Ecstasy use among teens dropped dramatically in the early 2000s, as concern about the consequences of use grew. However, the proportion of students seeing great risk in using this drug has been in decline for the past two or three years at all three grade levels, and use has begun to increase, at least in the upper grades.
Among 10th graders, annual prevalence has risen from a recent low of 2.4 percent in 2004 to 3.5 percent in 2007, while in 12th grade it has risen from a recent low of 3 percent in 2005 to 4.5 percent in 2007. While none of the one-year increases were statistically significant for 2007, a clear pattern of gradually rising use is discernible in the upper grades; and their cumulative increases over the past couple of years are statistically significant.