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Research Review

Teen Meth Use, Cigarette Smoking at Lowest Levels in NIDA Survey

Methamphetamine use among teens appears to have dropped significantly in recent years, according to National Institute on Drug Abuse’s annual Monitoring the Future survey, released at a news conference. However, declines in marijuana use have stalled, and prescription drug abuse remains high, the survey reports.
The survey is a series of classroom surveys of eighth, 10th, and 12th graders. Overall, 46,097 students from 389 public and private schools participated in the 2009 survey.
The number of high school seniors reporting they used methamphetamine in the past year is now at only 1.2%—the lowest since questions about methamphetamine were added to the survey in 1999, when it was reported at 4.7%. In addition, the proportion of 10th graders reporting that crystal meth was easy to obtain has dropped to 14%, down from 19.5% five years ago.
The report says cigarette smoking was at the lowest point in the survey’s history on all measures for eighth, 10th, and 12th graders. For example, only 2.7% of eighth graders describe themselves as daily smokers, down from a peak rate of 10.4% in 1996. Similarly, 11.2% of high school seniors say they smoke daily, less than one half of the 24.6% rate in 1997. However, one area of concern is the rate of smokeless tobacco use. The rate of 10th graders using smokeless tobacco in the past month is 6.5%, up from last year and the same as it was in 1999.
The survey indicates a continuing high rate of nonmedical use of prescription drugs and cough syrup among teens. Seven of the top 10 drugs abused by 12th graders in the year prior to the survey were prescribed or purchased over the counter.
Nearly 1 in 10 high school seniors reported past year nonmedical use of Vicodin, and 1 in 20 reported abusing Oxycontin. Nonmedical use of these painkillers has increased among 10th graders in the past five years. The survey reported that more than 5% of 10th and 12th graders reported nonmedical use of Adderall, a stimulant commonly prescribed to treat ADHD, in the past year.

Nineteen percent of 12th graders reported they got their drugs by a doctor’s prescription, and 8% reported buying them from a dealer. However, 66% said they got the drugs from a friend or relative. Of these, 12% reported they “took” them; 21% reported “buying” them and 33% said they were “given” the drugs. Internet purchases do not appear to be a major source of drugs for this age group.

— Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse