National study: Adolescent marijuana use edges upward


National study: Adolescent marijuana use edges upward

For high school seniors, almost one in three had used a vaping device in the past year - with half saying that it had only contained flavouring.

Initiatives that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use in many states appear to be a factor behind its rising popularity among teens.

Just over 10 percent of high school seniors reported that they vaped with marijuana, yet daily use of the substance continues to become increasingly common in the same group.

This is the 43rd year for the Monitoring the Future study, now conducted by research scientists at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"The hope would be that we as a society and as pediatricians, are doing a better job at educating our patients that opioids are really not something we want to mess with", said Dr. Jennifer Plumb, who sits on the American Academy of Pediatrics' National Committee on Substance Use and Prevention. Daily use of marijuana for adolescents also became as, or more, popular than daily cigarette smoking, the survey found. The survey recorded a steep drop in past-year hookah use, from 23 percent among all age groups in 2014 to 10 percent in 2017.

Heroin, cocaine, steroids and LCD use remains low among students, though there has been a "significant" uptick in LSD among high school seniors, about three percent of whom reported trying it. About 20 percent said they only vaped it, Miech said.

Meanwhile, fewer teens are smoking cigarettes - down to just 4.2 percent - and binge drinking rate seem to be finally leveling out, according to the study. In fact, overall drug use has generally been trending downward for all three grades since 2013.

Vaping devices turn liquid flavorings laced with nicotine or marijuana into a vapor. Recent use of any kind of smokeless tobacco was down as well; overall, 3.5 percent of students said they used smokeless tobacco in the last 30 days. Among youths ages 12 to 17, attending school or not, 6.8 percent said they smoked marijuana at least once in the past month in 2016.

Likewise, binge drinking has leveled off with more than 16 percent of 12th graders in the USA reporting.

This year marks the lowest rates of illicit drug use, including prescription opioids.

For the first time this year, Monitoring the Future asked teens how often they vaped nicotine, marijuana or only flavoring, though researchers warned the numbers are likely to skew low since teens may not know what is in a vaping product. In addition, 2.2 percent of sophomores (down from a high of 5.1 percent in 2009) and 0.8 percent of eighth-graders (down from a high of 2.6 percent in 2006) said they had abused OxyContin. The survey found that 2 percent of seniors, 1.5 percent of sophomores and 0.7 percent of eighth-graders abused the combination hydrocodone-acetaminophen drug in the past year. Using electronic vaporizers was the third-most common form of substance use among high school seniors and 10th graders, and the second-most among 8th graders.

These declines may be a sign that efforts to reduce the supply of excess prescription opioids are paying off, Volkow said.

Among high school seniors, 2.7 percent said they had used cocaine in the previous year, as did 1.4 percent of sophomores and 0.8 percent of eighth-graders.

But the survey did find that more than 13 percent of eighth graders, 23 percent of 10th graders, and 27 percent of 12th graders tried "vaping" at some point a year ago.