New research this week suggests that teenagers have been using less and less drugs in the past few decades, with two notable exceptions. Reported levels of drug use have fallen for most substances since the early 1990s, according to the study, but rates of cannabis use and vaping have increased. The findings also show that less free time and more parental supervision can help children stay away from drug use in the first place.
The research was conducted by researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. They analyzed data for decades from the National Institute on Drug Abuse Monitoring the future a survey that regularly asks eighth, tenth and twelfth grade students across the country about their drug use and attitudes towards drugs (the questionnaire is to be completed anonymously for eighth and tenth graders and is to be kept strictly confidential to twelfth grade students).
In particular, they wanted to see how teenagers’ social lives could affect their drug use. So they divided the respondents into different groups, depending on how much they were socially involved, how much free time they had and how they spent it, as well as the level of parental involvement outside school. For example, more outgoing teens may report playing sports, going to parties frequently, or working part-time.
From 1991 to 2019, researchers found that reported substance use decreased for drugs such as alcohol, cigarettes, and most illegal substances. This decline was evident in all groups of teenagers, but there were differences in how these patterns changed over time. For example, the most sociable teens reported the highest levels of drug use, but also saw the largest declines at the end of 2010. In 2019, approximately 27% of adolescents reported drinking in the last month and 15% binge drinking in the past two weeks. The arrangements were published Wednesday in Substance Use and Misuse.
“The decline in the prevalence of drug use over the decades was greatest for groups defined by significant paid employment or high levels of social time, or with low involvement in other activities or with lower levels of supervision, although these groups had the highest initial incidence of any type of substance. use, ‘said lead author Noah Kreski, an epidemiologist in Colombia, v statement from the university.
As for the reasons for this decline, Kreski and his colleagues argue that social trends may be an important factor. Based on this data, it seems that today’s teens spend less disordered time with their peers or older adults than they did in the 90s, including organizing parties, dating, or just working. Community programs aimed at discouraging children from smoking or drinking may also have played a role.
While teens began to drink less and smoke nicotine less, their levels of cannabis use and vaping increased over time. By 2019, 13% of teens reported using cannabis, 12% reported nicotine vaping, and 6% reported vaping cannabis in the last month. These trends were evident in all groups, but especially among socially committed adolescents or working people. It is possible that cannabis and e-cigarettes may have become a tempting alternative to alcohol and other drugs among teenagers as cultural norms have changed over time, but the authors say more research is needed to understand the exact factors behind this growth and decline in drug use among adolescents.
“Discovering these links between complex time use patterns and substance use outcomes could reveal new avenues for substance-related intervention and education for adolescents, helping to promote decline in use,” said Kreski.
More recent data from the Monitoring the Future study suggests that these trends continue in both directions. While overall reported teen drug use fell again between 2020 and 2021, cannabis use Rose to record levels.