As the opioid epidemic sweeps away scores of American adults, abuse of those drugs has hit a historic low among teens, who are increasingly drawn to vaping and marijuana.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse’s annual Monitoring the Future survey has been collecting data on drug and alcohol use among young Americans in collaboration with the University of Michigan since the 1970s.
This year’s report, released this morning, found that use of nearly all types of drugs had fallen among the 43,703 teens surveyed.
But many teens are now vaping, even though many admit they are unsure what substance they are consuming through their e-cigarettes.
They are also increasingly accepting of marijuana, but skeptical of using ‘synthetic marijuana,’ or K2, which is killing adults across the country.
Researchers suggest that the new numbers may indicate that recent national efforts to discourage teens from using opioids might be working, but caution that such campaigns need to be able to change along with ever-changing teens.
More and more teens are vaping (pictured) even if they don’t know what’s in their so-called ‘e-liquid,’ according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s latest statistics (file image)
Though opioid use, abuse and overdose are most common in older people, teen addiction is particularly worrisome to public health officials like those at the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA)
So data showing that only around two percent of students between the eighth and twelfth grades are using popular prescription opioids is encouraging, and continues a trend downward since the 2003 peak.
Oxytocin use fell to 2.7 percent, a significant drop from the drug’s heyday among students in 2005, when 5.5 percent were using it recreationally.
Still, opioids have not historically been the drug of choice for young students, and nearly one third of students now report that they vape.
Vaping was increasingly common as students got older, according to the study, and by the time they were seniors in high school, and nearly one third said they had vaped in the last year.
The majority of the seniors – 51.8 percent – thought that what they were inhaling was ‘just flavoring,’ while 32.8 percent said it was nicotine.
But previous research has indicated that teens are frequently unsure what substance they’re actually vaping, and that even reading the label may not provide them with accurate information.
‘We are especially concerned because the survey shows that some of the teens using these devices are first-time nicotine users,’ said Dr Nora D. Volkow, director of NIDA.
‘Recent research suggests that some of them could move on to regular cigarette smoking, so it is critical that we intervene with evidence-based efforts to prevent youth from using these products,’ she added.
Just over 10 percent of high school seniors reported that they vaped with marijuana, yet daily use of the substance continues to become increasingly common in the same group.
Meanwhile, fewer teens are smoking cigarettes – down to just 4.2 percent – and binge drinking rate seem to be finally leveling out, according to the study.
Heroin, cocaine, steroids and LCD use remains low among students, though there has been a ‘significant’ uptick in LSD among high school seniors, about three percent of whom reported trying it.