High School & Youth Drug-Use Trends

From the National Institute On Drug Abuse.

Since 1975 the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey has measured drug, alcohol and cigarette use - and related attitudes - among adolescent students nationwide. Survey participants report their drug use behaviors across 3 time periods: lifetime, past year and past month. For some drugs, daily use is also reported. Youths surveyed are in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades.
Monitoring the Future, a continuing study of American youth
The MTF survey is funded by the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA), and is conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. The 36th annual study was conducted during 2010 and raises concerns about increases in drug use among the nation’s teens, particularly the youngest.

  • Daily marijuana use increased among 8th, 10th and 12th graders from 2009 to 2010. Among 12th graders it was at its highest point since the early 1980s at 6.1%. The perceived risk of regular marijuana use also declined among 10th and 12th graders, suggesting future trends in use may continue upward.
  • In addition, most measures of marijuana use increased among 8th graders between 2009 and 2010 (past year, past month and daily), paralleling softening attitudes for the last 2 years about the risk of using marijuana.
  • Marijuana use is now ahead of cigarette smoking on some measures (due to decreases in smoking and recent increases in marijuana use). In 2010, 21.4% of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days, while 19.2% smoked cigarettes.
  • Steady declines in cigarette smoking appear to have stalled in all 3 grades after several years of improvement on most measures.
  • After marijuana, prescription and over-the-counter medications account for most of the top drugs abused by 12th graders in the past year. Among 12th graders, past-year nonmedical use of Vicodin decreased from 9.7% to 8%. However, past-year nonmedical use of OxyContin remains unchanged across the 3 grades and has increased in 10th graders over the past 5 years. Moreover, past-year nonmedical use of Adderall and over-the-counter cough and cold medicines among 12th graders remains high at 6.5% and 6.6%, respectively.
  • After several years of decline, current and past year use of Ecstasy has risen among 8th and 10th graders. From 2009 to 2010, lifetime use of ecstasy among 8th graders increased from 2.2% to 3.3%, past year use from 1.3% to 2.4% and current use 0.6% to 1.1%. This follows declines in the perceived risk associated with MDMA use seen over the past several years.
  • Alcohol use has continued to decline among high school seniors with past-month use falling from 43.5% to 41.2% and alcohol binge drinking (defined as 5 or more drinks in a row in the past 2 weeks) declining from 25.2% to 23.2%. Declines were also observed for all measures among 12th graders reporting the use of flavored alcoholic beverages. Past-year use fell from 53.4% to 47.9%.
Chart of Cigarette and Marijuana Usage Among 12th Grade Students
Chart of Daily Use by 12th Graders of Marijuana Versus Perceived Risk
Chart of Past Drug Use By 12th Graders