National Adolescent Drug Trends in 2017: Findings Released

In the annual Monitoring the Future study by the University of Michigan, now in its 43rd year, about 45,000 students in some 380 public and private secondary schools have been surveyed each year in this U.S. national study, designed and conducted by research scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Students in grades 8, 10 and 12 are surveyed.

Highlights:

  • This increase in marijuana drove trends in any illicit drug use in the past year. Marijuana use among adolescents edged upward in 2017, the first significant increase in seven years. Overall, past-year use of marijuana significantly increased by 1.3% to 24% in 2017 for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders combined.
  • The 2017 survey also reports first-ever national, standard estimates of nicotine vaping, marijuana vaping, flavoring-only vaping, and any vaping. Previously, no national study has published estimates for vaping of specific substances for the standard time periods of past 30 days, past year, and lifetime.
  • Cigarette smoking by teens continued to decline in 2017. For the three grades combined, all measures (lifetime, 30-day, daily, and half-pack/day) are at historic lows since first measured in all three grades in 1991. Since the peak levels reached in the mid-1990s, lifetime prevalence has fallen by 71%, 30-day prevalence by 81%, daily prevalence by 86%, and current half-pack-a-day prevalence by 91%.
  • Smokeless tobacco also showed a continuing decline this year with 30-day prevalence reaching a low point for the three grades individually and combined.
  • In general, alcohol use by adolescents has been in a long-term decline that actually first began in the 1980s and was interrupted for a few years during the relapse phase in the substance use epidemic in the 1990s.
  • In 2017, however, lifetime prevalence, annual prevalence, 30-day prevalence, and daily prevalence all showed little or no change with no significant changes for any grade or for the three grades combined. This is the first time this has happened in many years and may herald the end of the long-term decline in adolescent alcohol use.
  • Use of inhalants significantly increased among 8th grade students in 2017. Inhalant use includes sniffing glue, gases, or sprays, and is an unusual type of substance use because it is more common among younger than older adolescents.
  • The opioid epidemic among adults has received much attention in recent months, and MTF offers the opportunity to see what is happening with opioid use among adolescents. Heroin use by adolescents has always been low, and did not significantly change in the 8th, 10th, or 12th grades in 2017, with annual use levels at 0.4% or lower in all three grades.