Alcohol, Tobacco, and Prescription Drug Use By Teens Declines

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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on 09/10/2015 by Michael P. Botticelli

Today, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) released the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report which shows progress in reducing some forms of substance use – especially among adolescents.  Substance use levels in many areas, however have remained relatively constant.

With regard to substance use, the report found some areas of progress, particularly among adolescents.  For example, the percentage of adolescents aged 12 to 17 who were current (past month) tobacco users declined by roughly half from 15.2 percent in 2002 to 7.0 percent in 2014. Similarly, the level of adolescents engaged in past month illegal alcohol use dropped from 17.6 percent to 11.5 percent over the same period.  The level of current nonmedical users of prescription pain relievers decreased from 3.2 percent in 2002 to 1.9 percent in 2014 among adolescents aged 12 to 17.

Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug. In 2014, roughly 8.4 percent of Americans age 12 and older were current users of marijuana – up from 7.5 percent in 2013. Marijuana use is especially growing among those aged 26 and older – from 5.6 percent in 2013 to 6.6 percent in 2014.  The percentage of adolescents who were current marijuana users in 2014 (7.4 percent) was similar to recent years.

The data released today show some signs of progress, including lower levels of non-medical prescription drug use and teen alcohol and tobacco use; however, we still have significant challenges to address.  We know that evidence-based prevention efforts are the most effective way to reduce drug use and to support the roughly 90 percent of American youth who do not use illicit drugs.