Teenage Substance Abuse Declines Except for Illicit Prescription Drug Use
U.S. teenagers' recreational use of prescription sedatives is at its highest rate in 26 years, and the illicit use of painkillers such as OxyContin also is increasing, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's Monitoring the Future Survey, the New York Times reports. Researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed about 50,000 students nationwide from public and private schools for the study. Among high school seniors, 7.2% used sedatives without a prescription in 2005, a percentage not equaled since 1979. OxyContin was used by 5.5% of seniors, up from 4% in 2002 (Zernike, New York Times, 12/20).
Nearly 10% of high school seniors used prescription painkillers in 2005. The study found a modest decline in illicit drug use among seniors, from 51.1% in 2004 to 50.4% in 2005. The rate of illicit drug use for 10th graders was 38.2%, down from 39.8% in 2004, and for eighth graders the rate fell from 21.5% to 21.4%. Marijuana was the only drug in 2005 that was used more than prescription drugs, with 44.8% of 12th graders reporting marijuana use, down 0.9% from 2004. Cigarette use among teenagers fell to its lowest level since the survey was first conducted in 1975, but cigarette use among eighth graders increased for the first time since 1996 (Schmid, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/20).
Alcohol use has reached "historic lows," the New York Times reports (New York Times, 12/20). Methamphetamine and steroids also saw "sharp drops," the Washington Times reports (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 12/20). Nora Volkow, director of NIDA, said the results were "extraordinary" and added, "Our anti-drug campaigns are getting through" (Talan, Long Island Newsday, 12/20).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Monday reported on the survey (Arnold, "All Things Considered," NPR, 12/19). A transcript of the segment is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.