Teens and Substance Use

How teens are using e-cigs, marijuana, opioids and more

(RxWiki News) There's good news and bad news about how adolescents in the United States are using substances like nicotine, marijuana and opioids.

According to the 2017 Monitoring the Future survey, electronic cigarettes and marijuana appeared to be more popular among US eighth, 10th, and 12th graders than painkillers and conventional cigarettes.

This survey covered nearly 44,000 students in 360 schools. It found that hookah and tobacco cigarette use appeared to be declining among teens, while e-cigarette use appeared to be increasing. However, teens using e-cigs were not always aware of what substances they were inhaling from the devices.

Around 27.8 percent of surveyed teens reporting using an e-cig ("vaping") within the past year. More than half said they were only inhaling flavoring, and nearly a third said they were inhaling nicotine. More than 11 percent said they were using marijuana.

Meanwhile, the new survey found that teens appeared to be using opioid painkillers less than they were years ago. In fact, the use of some commonly abused opioids like Vicodin appeared to hit historic lows among teens. However, it's important to note that opioid use among adults remains high and leads to countless deaths every year.

In 2003, 10.5 percent of surveyed high school seniors said they used Vicodin. The 2017 survey found that only 2 percent said they used the opioid.

“The decline in both the misuse and perceived availability of opioid medications may reflect recent public health initiatives to discourage opioid misuse to address this crisis,” said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a press release. “However, with each new class of teens entering the challenging years of middle and high school, we must remain vigilant in our prevention efforts targeting young people, the adults who nurture and influence them, and the health care providers who treat them.”

This survey also found that marijuana use among teens had become as popular as cigarette smoking — if not more popular. The researchers pointed out that marijuana use among 12th graders has remained somewhat consistent, with small increases, while conventional cigarette smoking has decreased over the years.

If you are concerned that your teen might be using dangerous substances, speak with your health care provider.

The Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan conducts the Monitoring the Future survey. The US Department of Health and Human Services funds the annual research.