In light of the recently depressing news that the opiate and heroin epidemics in this country are simply skyrocketing, there is a light at the end of the tunnel: teen drug use is going down to record lows, and for many kinds of different drugs – both legal and illegal.
Teens' use of such drugs as ecstasy, alcohol, cocaine, and even tobacco are dipping, according to a new survey conducted by the government called Monitoring for the Future. Data was gathered from over 45,000 students in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades, and the survey found that for most drugs, teens' rates of usage were the lowest that have ever been reported in the history of the survey, which dates as far back as 1975 for high school seniors. Testing of eighth and 10th graders is newer, with the survey only implementing those results beginning in 1991.
As an example of how these numbers have improved over the years, take for example the numbers that were reported back in the mid-1990s. Back then, nearly 20 percent of 10th and 12 graders reported using both legal and illegal drugs, and 12 percent of eighth graders said the same. However, 2016's results showed that only 14 percent of 12th graders and 10 percent of 10th graders reported using drugs. Only five percent of eighth graders also reported taking a drug other than marijuana sometime during the past year.
Now that researchers have discovered numbers that far exceeded their expectations in a good way, now they are tasked with finding out what exactly is responsible for this wonderful drop in numbers so that whatever it is that is working can be continued.
The only drug that hasn't decreased in popularity among teens, according to the survey, is marijuana. Marijuana use has dropped among eighth and 10th graders, but 12th graders still report using marijuana at the same rates they did when the survey began and over the course of its lifetime, with the rate hovering around 22 percent.
There may be a link between the number of teens who use marijuana and the states that have legalized the drug. For instance, in 2016, nearly 40 percent of 12th graders who live in states where medical marijuana has been legalized have reported taking the drug at some point over the past year. This number is higher than the 33 percent of teens who have reported using marijuana over the past year in states where medicinal marijuana is not legal.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse – the organization that funded this study – says that this is a good argument as to why people should take measures to better understand policy issues as they relate to the legalization of marijuana. It is for this reason specifically that we must do the necessary research into finding out the influence that legalizing marijuana can have on society as a whole – including its children.