Teens have been using less and less drugs over the past few decades, with two important exceptions, new research shows this week. The study found that drug use levels for most substances have declined since the early 1990s, but rates of cannabis use and vaping have risen. The findings also suggest that less free time and more parental supervision may help children stay away from using drugs in the first place.
The research was led by scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. They analyzed decades of data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. future monitoring The survey, which regularly asks 8th, 10th and 12th grade students across the country about their drug use and drug attitudes (the questionnaire is intended to be filled out anonymously for 8th and 10th graders) And for class 12th is considered completely confidential.)
They specifically wanted to see how the adolescents’ social lives might have affected their drug use. So they divided the respondents into different groups, based on how socially engaged they were, how much free time they had and how it was spent, and the level of parental involvement outside of school. More social teens, for example, may report playing sports, frequently attending parties, or having a part-time job.
From 1991 to 2019, the researchers found, there was a decrease in substance abuse for drugs such as alcohol, cigarettes and most illicit substances. This decline was seen in all groups of adolescents, but differed in how these patterns changed over time. For example, most social adolescents reported the highest levels of drug use, but also saw the greatest decline by the end of 2010. In 2019, about 27% of teens reported drinking in the past month, while 15% reported drinking excessively in the past two weeks. the conclusions were published Wednesday in the journal Substance Use and Abuse.
“The prevalence of substance abuse over the decades was greatest for groups defined by significant paid employment or high levels of social time, with either low engagement in other activities or lower levels of supervision, although each type of activity in these groups The substance had the highest initial prevalence of use,” said lead author Noah Cresky, an epidemiologist in Colombia, in a. Statement from University.
As to why this decline is happening, Kreski and his colleagues argue that social trends might be an important factor. Based on this data, teens today seem to be spending less unstructured time with their peers or older adults than they did in the 90s, including having parties, dating, or just working. And community programs focused on deterring kids from smoking or drinking may have also played a role.
While teens have begun to drink and smoke nicotine less, their levels of cannabis use and vaping have gone up over time. By 2019, 13% of teens reported using cannabis, 12% reported nicotine vaping, and 6% reported cannabis vaping in the past month. These trends were seen across all groups, but especially in socially engaged teens or those with a job. It’s possible that cannabis and vaping might have become alluring alternatives to alcohol and other drugs among teens as cultural norms have shifted over time, but the authors say that more research is needed to understand the exact drivers behind this rise and fall of teen drug use.
“Uncovering these links between complex patterns of time use and substance use outcomes could reveal new opportunities for intervention and education of adolescents surrounding substances, helping to promote declines in use,” said Kreski.
More recent data from the Monitoring the Future Survey suggests that these trends are continuing in both directions. While overall reported teen drug use once again declined between 2020 and 2021, cannabis use rose to an all-time high.