Updated on October 2, 2020
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly one in three teens currently engages in activities that put them at risk for developing a drug problem. Often, there are warning signs: binge drinking, an obsession with others’ approval, a social life that revolves around illicit revelry.
As parents, it’s important to intervene—ideally before these behaviors have a chance to develop—and have a frank but calm conversation with your teen about drug use and abuse. Learn the statistics about drug abuse to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to identify and address problems.
Marijuana use is on the rise! Though marijuana use saw a downward trend beginning in the 1990s, come the late 2000s it was again on the rise. In 2012, 6.5 percent of 8th graders, 17 percent of 10th graders, and 22.9 percent of 12th graders admitted to using marijuana within the past month, an increase in each case of about 30 percent in the last five years. Daily use has also increased.
In the same survey, daily use among 12th graders has increased from 5.1 percent in 2007 to 6.5 percent in 2012. Society’s changing perception of marijuana as a “safe” drug—see the debates about medical marijuana and legalization—are likely responsible for this increase. Prescription drug abuse remains a major concern. In 2012, 14.8 percent of 12th graders reported using a prescription drug non-medically. The most commonly abused prescription drugs among teens are the pain relievers Vicodin & OxyContin and the stimulant Adderall.
On the plus side… The past five years have seen a substantial drop in cocaine, ecstasy, and inhalant use among teenagers.
Inhalant use is at its lowest level since the National Institute on Drug Abuse started keeping track.
From 2007-2012, past-year cocaine use by 12th graders dropped fifty percent, from 5.2 to 2.7 percent, respectively. Past-year use of ecstasy among 12th graders declined from 5.3 in 2011 to 3.8 percent in 2012.
Teen alcohol use is declining as well. A long-term downward trend in teen alcohol use continues, according to the 2012 NIDA survey. In the 2012 survey, 3.6 percent of 8th graders, 14.5 percent of 10th graders, and 28.1 percent of 12th graders admitted they had gotten drunk within the past month.
Significant drops have also been reported in daily alcohol use among teenagers. Binge drinking among high school seniors has declined 25 percent since the mid-90s.
For the first time, more teens smoke marijuana than smoke cigarettes. In 2008, marijuana use among teenagers surpassed teen cigarette smoking for the first time, and that trend has only continued.
According to the 2012 survey, now 22.9 percent of 12th graders are current marijuana smokers, while only 17.1 percent of 12th graders are cigarette smokers. Those numbers are for teens who’ve used the said drug within the past month. Nonconventional inhaled tobacco use is rising, however. The use of hookahs and small cigars now outranks cigarette smoking as the tobacco vectors of choice.