The National Institute on Drug Abuse published the results from their recent 2012 survey on teens and drug use, abuse and addiction. The comprehensive report covers the use of both illicit drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine and heroine as well as licit drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. Here is an overview of their findings for children in grades 8 -12 who participated in the survey:
Alcohol remains the substance most widely used by today’s teenagers. Despite recent declining rates for underage drinking, seven out of every ten students (69%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and three out of ten (30%) have done so by 8th grade. In fact, over half (54%) of 12th graders and more than one seventh (13%) of 8th graders in 2012 report having been drunk at least once in their life.
Alcohol use began a substantial decline in the 1980s. To a considerable degree, alcohol trends have tended to parallel the trends in illicit drug use. These include a modest increase in binge drinking (defined as having five or more drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks) in the early to mid-1990s, though it was a proportionally smaller increase than was seen for cigarettes and most of the illicit drugs. Fortunately, binge drinking rates leveled off in the early 2000s, just about when the illicit drug rates began to turn around, and in 2002 a drop in drinking and drunkenness resumed in all grades. Gradual declines continued into 2011, and we saw the study’s lowest rates of teen drinking and drunkeness in all three grades that year.
Both of the licit drugs, alcohol and tobacco, also showed some further decline in 2012, though the story for alcohol is mixed. In 2012, a significant further decline in binge drinking was seen among 8th graders, but there was a slight increase among 10th graders, and 12th graders showed a statistically significant increase from 22% to 24%. Alcohol use had been in a long-term pattern of decline since about 1980, with the interruption of a few years in the early 1990s during which alcohol use increased along with the use of cigarettes and almost all illicit drugs. In 1981, 41% of 12th graders reported having five or more drinks in a row on at least one occasion in the two weeks prior to the survey; thus the recent two percentage-point increase to 24% in 2012 still leaves it well below peak levels of the 1980s.
The pattern of alcohol consumption that is probably of greatest concern from a public health perspective. In 2012 the drop in readily available alcoholic substances halted in the upper grades. Overall, it appears that states, communities, and parents have been successful in reducing access to alcohol among the younger teens.
Are you surprised at the number of children who drink alcohol when the legal age is 21?
About Monitoring The Future
Monitoring the Future is an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, college students, and young adults. Sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, each year, a total of approximately 50,000 8th, 10th and 12th grade students are surveyed (12th graders since 1975, and 8th and 10th graders since 1991). In addition, annual follow-up questionnaires are mailed to a sample of each graduating class for a number of years after their initial participation. The study reports national trends in smoking, drinking, and illicit drug use among American secondary school students.
Source: The Monitoring the Future study, the University of Michigan | Monitorthefuture.org