The 2014 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey includes detailed data about the rate of teen drug use in the United States. The study, conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), interviewed more than 41,000 students across 377 public and private schools to reach their findings. One major revelation of the report is that prescription medication abuse is trending downward among American teenagers. A close examination of the data offers useful insight into the future of the fight against addiction.
Most drug use among teenagers has fallen
The MTF study reveals that teenagers are increasingly turning away from prescription opioids. Research on the past-year use of the prescription pain reliever Vicodin for non-medical reasons has shown a significant decline to 4.8 percent in teens. This figure is almost half the rate reported in 2009. The use of OxyContin, another prescription opioid that has become popular for abuse among teens, has also fallen to a low 3.3 percent. These numbers stand in the face of a nationally rising opioid abuse trend, revealing a possible light at the end of the tunnel of the opioid epidemic.
Prescription stimulants are experiencing a similar overall decline in use among teens. The abuse of prescription cold and cough medications has fallen dramatically among eighth graders, from 3.8 percent in 2009 to 2 percent in 2014. These medications contain dextromethorphan (DXM), a powerful stimulant that can cause cognitive decline over chronic use. In general, the use of all narcotics other than heroin, including all prescription medication, has been falling in high school seniors for some time and now rests at 6.1 percent. This figure is way down from 9.5 percent in 2004.
Areas of concern
While the MTF’s findings have revealed significant gains in the fight against prescription drug abuse among teens, the study also shows trends that may pose difficulties in the future. For example, marijuana use has remained stable over the past few years. This fact is more troubling in light of the size of the marijuana addiction problem in the country. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are approximately 4.2 million people addicted to the drug in the United States. Marijuana is also the first illicit drug that most people take, possibly leading to harder drugs in the future.
The most worrying trend uncovered by the MTF study is the fact that teens are changing their attitudes about prescription medication and other drugs. Seniors are also becoming less concerned about the risks of prescription amphetamine use, with about 14 percent fewer seniors believing that they cause harm. In addition, the majority of high school seniors now believe that marijuana use is not harmful, with only 36 percent believing that it puts users at risk. This diminished concern over the consequences of drug abuse could cause a rise in drug use in the future.
Overall, the MTF study is largely optimistic about the current state of teen drug addiction in the country. Treatment programs throughout the state are using the most modern methods to fight addiction and bring about a lasting recovery. If you or someone you know has become addicted to prescription medication or any other substance, call the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California for information about treatment options.