Monitoring the Future Survey Results Information 2013
Every year, the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey measures drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and related attitudes among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. Following are facts and statistics about youth substance use from the 2013 MTF report.
This year continues to provide generally encouraging news, with many forms of drug use holding steady at low levels among the nation’s adolescents; however, concerns persist over the softening of attitudes around some types of drug use, particularly decreases in perceived harm and disapproval of marijuana use and perceived harm of non-medical use of prescription medications such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Adderall.
The Good News
- Cigarette smoking continues to drop and is currently at its lowest rate in the survey’s history. One-year declines were seen in lifetime and past-month use among 10th graders, and all prevalence periods have seen a continued trend of decreasing cigarette use. For example, there were significant 5-year drops in lifetime, current (past-month), and daily cigarette use among all grades. Current use was reported by 9.1% of 10th graders, down from 12.3% in 2008 and from 10.8% last year. Eighth and 12th graders also saw a drop from 2008 to 2013, from 6.8 to 4.5% for 8th graders and from 20.4% to 16.3% for 12th graders reporting past-month use. Although there were no increases between 2012 and 2013, it appears that marijuana use continues to exceed cigarette use in these students. In 2013, 22.7% of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days compared with 16.3% who smoked cigarettes.
- Likewise, 5-year trends continue to show significant decreases in alcohol use among all grades and across nearly all prevalence periods. For example, from 2008 to 2013, current use of alcohol declined from 15.9% to 10.2% among 8th graders, from 28.8% to 25.7% among 10th graders, and from 43.1% to 39.2% among 12th graders. From 2012 to 2013, decreases were observed in binge use of alcohol (defined as five or more drinks in a row in the last 2 weeks) among 10th graders, with a 5-year trend showing a significant decrease in all three grades.
- Overall, the use of most illicit drugs either remained steady or declined from 2012 to 2013. For instance, past-year use of synthetic marijuana (also known as K2 or “Spice”) among high school seniors sharply decreased, from 11.3% in 2012 to 7.9% in 2013. Another harmful synthetic drug, bath salts (synthetic stimulants), was added to the survey last year; perceived risk of harm of using bath salts increased substantially among 12thgraders, with 59.5% now saying they think someone who tries bath salts once or twice risks harming themselves (physically or in other ways), as compared with 33.2% giving the same response the previous year.
- This year’s survey continues to show a long-term drop in past-year nonmedical use of prescription medications. Use of the pain reliever Vicodin has decreased among all grades; among high school seniors, it dropped from 7.5% in 2012 to 5.3% in 2013. OxyContin, another pain reliever, also showed a long-term drop in use among 12th graders, from 4.7% in 2008 to 3.6% in 2013.
- Lastly, use of inhalants is at its lowest levels in the history of the survey, among all grades and across nearly all prevalence periods. Among 8th graders, for whom inhalant use has always been most prevalent, past-year use dropped to an all-time low of 5.2% in 2013.
Areas of Concern
- Five-year trends are showing significant increases in past-year and past-month (current)marijuana use across all three grades as well as increases in lifetime and daily marijuana use among 10th graders. From 2008 to 2013, past-month use increased from 5.8% to 7.0% among 8th graders, 13.8% to 18.0% among 10th graders, and from 19.4% to 22.7% among 12th graders. These increases continue to parallel softening attitudes about the perceived risk of harm and disapproval associated with marijuana use.
- Since 2010, the survey has captured the use of tobacco products other than cigarettes, such as use of hookahs to smoke tobacco, among high school seniors. Past-year hookah use has increased among 12th graders to 21.4%—the highest rate since 2010, when the survey started capturing this type of tobacco use.
- The increased abuse of prescription stimulants is also a cause for concern. The percentage of 12th graders reporting past-year nonmedical use of amphetamines rose from 6.8% in 2008 to 8.7% in 2013. Current use among 12th graders also increased from 2.9% in 2008 to 4.1% in 2013.
- Changing attitudes toward substance abuse often precede changes in reported use. Although use of Vicodin has declined, so has perception of harm among teens. In 2013,perceived risk of harm of trying Vicodin occasionally declined in 8th graders, from 29.4% to 26.2% and 10th graders, from 40.3% to 36% in 2013. This could indicate that use could begin to rise again in future years.
Monitoring the Future Survey Results Information
Every year, the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey measures drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and related attitudes among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. Following are facts and statistics about youth substance use from the 2012 MTF report.
Illicit Drug Use
Illicit drug use among teenagers has continued at high rates, largely due to the popularity of marijuana. Marijuana use by adolescents declined from the late 1990s until the mid-to-late 2000s, but has been on the increase since then. In 2012, 6.5 percent of 8th graders, 17.0 percent of 10th graders, and 22.9 percent of 12th graders used marijuana in the past month—an increase among 10th and 12th graders from 14.2 percent, and 18.8 percent in 2007. Daily use has also increased; 6.5 percent of 12th graders now use marijuana every day, compared to 5.1 percent in the 2007.
Rising marijuana use reflects changing perceptions and attitudes. Historically, as perception of risks goes down, use goes up (and vice versa – see figure). Young people are showing decreased perception that marijuana is dangerous. The growing perception of marijuana as a safe drug may reflect recent public discussions over medical marijuana and marijuana legalization.
Synthetic marijuana is a new and major concern. Also known as Spice or K2, synthetic marijuana refers to herbal mixtures laced with synthetic cannabinoids, chemicals that act in the brain similarly to THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana. These mixtures could be obtained legally until recently and are still wrongly perceived as a safe alternative to marijuana. Synthetic marijuana was added to the MTF survey in 2011. In that year, 11.4 percent of 12th graders—one in nine—reported using it in the past year. This year 4.4 percent of 8th graders, 8.8 percent of 10th graders, and 11.3 percent of 12th graders reported past-year use.
Nonmedical use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines remains a significant part of the teen drug problem. In 2012, 14.8 percent of high-school seniors used a prescription drug nonmedically in the past year. Data for specific drugs show that the most commonly abused prescription drugs by teens are the stimulant Adderall and the pain reliever Vicodin (see figure).
Positive trends in the past several years include reduced use of inhalants and less use of cocaine. Inhalant use is at its lowest levels in the history of the survey. Past-year inhalant use by younger teens dropped significantly between 2007 and 2012, from 8.3 percent of 8th graders and 6.6 percent of 10th graders to 6.2 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively. Past-year use of cocaine by 12th graders dropped from 5.2 percent to 2.7 percent from 2007 to 2012. Other drugs, such as heroin, methamphetamine, and hallucinogens, are holding fairly steady.
Ecstasy (MDMA) is seeing a significant drop among teens. Past-year use of ecstasy by 12th graders decreased from 5.3 percent in 2011 to 3.8 percent in 2012. Among 10th and 8th graders it dropped from 4.5 to 3.0 percent and from 1.7 to 1.1 percent, respectively.
Alcohol use among teens has dropped to historically low levels. In 2012, 3.6 percent of 8th graders, 14.5 percent of 10th graders, and 28.1 percent of 12th graders reported getting drunk in the past month, continuing a long-term, downward trend.. Significant declines include 5-year drops in daily alcohol use by 8th, 10th and 12th graders (0.3 percent, 1.0 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively, in 2012). In 2012, 23.7 percent of high-school seniors reported binge drinking (defined as 5 or more drinks in a row in the past 2 weeks)—a drop of one-quarter since the late 1990s.
Fewer teens smoke cigarettes than smoke marijuana. Cigarette smoking by high-school students peaked in 1996–1997 and has declined continuously since then. In contrast, marijuana use has been rising in recent years. Now, while 17.1 percent of 12th graders were current (past-month) cigarette smokers—the lowest it has been in the history of the survey—22.9 percent were current marijuana smokers.
Other forms of smoked tobacco are remain popular, however. The use of hookah water pipes and small cigars has raised public health concerns and has recently been added to the MTF survey. In 2012, 18.3 percent of 12th graders had smoked a hookah in the past year, and 19.9 percent had smoked a small cigar.