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Home > Publications > NIDA Notes > Vol. 19, No. 1 > Tearoff

Teens' Drug Use Declines Dramatically,
According to MTF Survey Results
Tearoff
Vol. 19, No. 1 (April 2004)



Photo of Teens sitting on Steps

Falling to levels not seen in nearly a decade, past-month illicit drug use among the Nation's youth declined by 11 percent--from 19.4 to 17.3 percent--between 2001 and 2003, according to the newly released 2003 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. This reduction translates into roughly 400,000 fewer adolescent drug users than in 2001 and exceeds President Bush's call in February 2002 to reduce drug use among youth by 10 percent in 2 years. The 2003 findings emerged from responses provided by nearly 50,000 students in 392 public and private schools across the country. In addition to a decline in the numbers of teens reporting drug use in the month before being surveyed (past-month use), teens' drug use in the year before being surveyed (past-year use) fell by 11 percent, from 31.8 to 28.3 percent; teens claiming to have ever used drugs (lifetime use) also dropped--from 41 to 37.4 percent, a 9-percent reduction.

"The overall reduction in drug use by America's young people is heartening," said NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow. "We are confident that our concerted effort to provide students and teachers with informative, accurate information about addiction and drug abuse will contribute to further reductions in drug use."

The MTF survey, launched in 1975, measures drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and attitudes about use among 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders nationwide; the younger two grades were added in 1991. Participants report their past-month, past-year, and lifetime drug use behaviors. Funded by NIDA, the survey has been conducted annually since its inception by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. Survey results help identify potential drug problem areas and ensure that resources are targeted to areas of greatest need.

MTF typically focuses on changes in use and attitudes among individual grades from the prior year. However, at the request of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, MTF researchers conducted special analyses, for all three grades combined, of the changes between 2001 to 2003 in students' use of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco and in their anti-drug attitudes.

Key substance use patterns that emerged between 2001 and 2003 are as follows:

  • Cigarettes. Lifetime and past-month use of cigarettes declined among 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. Lifetime cigarette use dropped 17 percent, from 49.1 to 40.9 percent, and past-month use fell 18 percent, from 20.3 to 16.6 percent.
  • Alcohol. The use of alcohol also declined. Past-year and past-month use each declined 7 percent, from 58.4 to 54.6 percent and 35.7 to 33.3 percent, respectively.
  • Marijuana. Use of marijuana declined significantly. Past-month use declined 11 percent, from 16.6 to 14.8 percent; past-year use also declined 11 percent, from 27.5 to 24.5 percent; and lifetime use declined 8.2 percent from 35.3 to 32.4 percent. Among all three grades, students' perceived risk of using marijuana increased markedly.
  • Amphetamines. These substances have been the second-most commonly used illicit drug among youth, but their use also dropped in the last 2 years. Lifetime use fell 15 percent--from 13.9 to 11.8 percent. Both past-year and past-month use fell as well, from 9.6 to 8.0 percent and from 4.7 to 3.9 percent, respectively.
  • LSD and Ecstasy (MDMA). Students' use of hallucinogens LSD and ecstasy plummeted between 2001 and 2003. Lifetime use of LSD fell 43 percent, from 6.6 to 3.7 percent, and past-year and past-month use both dropped by nearly two-thirds. Lifetime use of ecstasy dropped 32 percent, with past-year and past-month use cut in half, from 6.1 to 3.1 percent and 2.4 to 1.1 percent, respectively.

 

Volume 19, Number 1 (April 2004)


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