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Dr. Volkow's 2007 Monitoring the Future Speech -- Transcript

What is very exciting about the results from the 2007 Monitoring the Future survey is that it showed significant decline in the use of both illicit substances and smoking among 8th graders and this is the youngest group of kids that are evaluated as part of the survey done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to determine the rate of abuse of substances in this country. And it shows a significant decline from 2006 in cigarette smoking– from 4 to 3 percent, which is actually significantly lower than it was in its peak in 1996, when it was 10%. This has major implications because we know we can predict, if these trends are maintained, a significant drop in the morbidity and mortality of these kids as they grow into adulthood. At the same time, because cigarette smoking is, in general, the first drug that kids will use– and it predicts subsequent use of illicit substances– this may also predict that these kids– if they maintain these low rates of smoking– will end up being at lower risk of abusing illicit substances.

In parallel, in the 8th graders, we're also seeing a decline in the prevalence of illicit substance abuse. So again, because this is that stage in their lives when they are particularly vulnerable for drug experimentation, and for the adverse effects of repeated drug exposure, this is very good news because it decreases the likelihood that they will become problematic drug users later on in life.

Nonetheless there is something that continues to be of worry, which is the high rate of prescription drug abuse by high school teenagers. And we have seen over the past 3 or 4 years that numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 more frequently abused substances are actually prescription medications, which are these types of drugs. The one that is most frequently abused in this type of drug is Vicodin, which is a pain killer, and approximately close to 10% of 12th graders have abused Vicodin for nonmedical purposes. This year, we have actually estimated the percentage of utilization for all categories of prescription medications across this group of kids, and approximately 15% of kids have abused a prescription medication in the past year for non medical purposes. So, this continues to be an unacceptably high rate of abuse of prescription medications. And in this category, we really have not seen any major changes in the rate of abuse of these substances, despite the fact that overall we've seen a decline over the past 5 years in illicit substance abuse, as well as smoking in teenagers.

There's another area where we are observing closely because this, actually, is not going in the right direction. And this has to do with the perception of 8th graders, that use of ecstasy or MDMA is deleterious to their health. Their disapproval of the use of these substances and the rate of disapproval, or sense that they are harmful, is going down. Because, overall, perception of harm or disapproval predicts the rate of utilization, we are concerned that we may start to see an increase in the rate of utilization of these drugs. And, indeed, in 10th and 12th graders we are starting see an increase in the rate of use of these drugs.


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