Marijuana Use is Up Among U.S. Students

But alcohol consumption among teens is declining.

December 24, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—A study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found that public and private school students across America are becoming more interested in vaping marijuana and less interested in binge drinking, according to The Spirits Business website.

The 2019 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey polled 42,531 students from 396 public and private schools across America. According to survey results, 20.8% of 12th graders, (ages 18-19) and 19.4% of 10th graders (ages 15-16) reported vaping marijuana in the past year.

For the first time, the survey measured daily marijuana vaping, which was reported at 3.5% among 12th graders, 3% among 10th graders, and 0.8% among eighth graders (ages 13-14). According to the responses, marijuana continues to be the most common illicit drug used by adolescents. The study found overall usage rates remained steady, with 35.7% of 12th graders, 28.8% of 10th graders and 11.8% of eighth graders saying they have used the drug.

Meanwhile, alcohol consumption during the past year saw a “significant five-year drop” among 10th and 12th graders—now at 37.7% and 52.1%, respectively.

The report also found a five-year decrease in binge drinking in 10th and 12th grades. The MTF found 14.4% of 12th graders binge drank in 2019, compared with 19.4% in 2014. Among 10th graders, binge drinking dropped from 12.6% in 2014 to 8.5% in 2019.

Past year rates of any illicit drug use, other than marijuana, remain relatively low among 12th graders; past year use was 3.6% for LSD; 3.3% for synthetic cannabinoids; 2.2% for both cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy); and 0.4% for heroin. Other drug use, including the misuse of prescription medicines and the use of alcohol, as well as tobacco cigarettes, continues to decline.

“We are heartened to see the continuing decline in the use of many drugs, particularly non-medical use of prescription opioids; however, teens are clearly attracted to vaping products,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA director.

Since 1975 the MTF survey has measured drug and alcohol use and related attitudes among students nationwide. Survey participants report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year and past month. The Monitoring the Future survey is conducted by the University of Michigan. 

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