If you were in 8th, 10th, or 12th grade in January, you might have filled out a long survey asking (anonymously) whether you had used different drugs—including alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit drugs—and what your attitudes about drugs were.
Every year NIDA asks more than 40,000 students in about 400 schools around the country to take part in our big survey, called Monitoring the Future, which helps us know what students think about drugs and how many people take them.
Well, the 2014 results are in … and it’s mostly good news!
For several years straight, teens have been drinking less alcohol, smoking fewer cigarettes, and, with a few exceptions, using fewer illicit drugs. 2014 continued that trend. Even marijuana remained level, instead of increasing, which is pretty good news considering that marijuana has been made legal for adults in a few states and has gotten so much positive press by people who want to make it legal everywhere. So far, that doesn’t seem to have made teens more likely to use marijuana.
Most teens disapprove of marijuana
This year, like last year, about one in five high school seniors, one in six 10th graders, and less than one in fifteen 8th graders had used marijuana in the month before the survey.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that there’s a lot of scientific research showing that heavy marijuana use might do lasting damage to a person’s brain if they use it during their teen years, before their brain is fully developed. This year, only 5.8 percent of high school seniors—or one in 17—reported using marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis.
Besides putting that group of students at risk for worse school performance and job prospects, heavy use of marijuana is also just plain not cool, according to teens. Over three quarters of the students surveyed (and four fifths of 8th graders) said they disapproved of people using marijuana regularly.
e-Cigs, the (not so) hot new thing
This was the first year the MTF survey asked students about use of e-cigarettes. Even though teens continue to smoke traditional cigarettes less and less, e-cigarette use was surprisingly high: Around one in six 10th and 12th graders and over one in eleven 8th graders had used one of these devices in the month leading up to the survey.
Lots of teens think e-cigs are safe to use, but unfortunately we don’t know if that’s really the case. The nicotine you breathe in is like other drugs: It changes the brain and can not only make you addicted if you use it enough but can also make it easier to get addicted to other drugs. They may be the hot new thing, but the results of using them may not be so hot. NIDA is doing research on the safety of e-cigs, and we’ll let you know what we learn.
Tell us in comments: Does it surprise you how few teens are using drugs these days?