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Trends in Youth Drug Abuse

Since 1975, the MTF has annually studied the extent of drug abuse among high school 12th graders. The survey was expanded in 1991 to include 8th and 10th graders. It is funded by NIDA and is conducted by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. The goal of the survey is to collect data on past month, past year, and lifetime drug use among students in these grade levels. This, the 28th annual study, was conducted during spring 2002.(1)

The 2002 MTF marks the sixth year in a row that illicit drug use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders remained stable or decreased. In particular, the proportion of 8th and 10th graders reporting the use of any illicit drug in the prior 12 months declined significantly from 2001 to 2002. The decrease in illicit drug use among 8th graders continues a decline begun in 1997, but this is the first significant decline among 10th graders since 1998.

Specific decreases were noted in the use of marijuana, some club drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol. For example, marijuana use in the past year decreased significantly among 10th graders, reaching its lowest rate since 1995. Marijuana use by 8th graders also has declined in recent years and is now at its lowest level since 1994.

In addition, the 2002 survey found the use of MDMA (ecstasy) decreased in every category in all three grades. Significant decreases occurred in past year and past month categories for 10th graders.

LSD use among Teens

Also, LSD use showed major changes from 2001 to 2002, with rates of use decreasing markedly across the board to the lowest rates of use in the history of the survey.

For alcohol, the use rates for 8th and 10th graders are at record lows in the history of the survey in those grades (since 1991).

Use of anabolic, androgenic steroids remained stable from 2001 to 2002 in each grade and category.

Use of amphetamines is down significantly for 8th graders in lifetime and past year categories from 2001 to 2002. Nonmedical use of methylphenidate (Ritalin®) was stable, with past year rates at 2.8 percent for 8th graders, 4.8 percent for 10th graders, and 4.0 percent of 12th graders in 2002.

For the first time, in 2002 the MTF survey looked at the misuse and/or non medical use of the prescription drugs Oxycontin and Vicodin. Nonmedical use of Oxycontin in the past year was reported by 4.0 percent of 12th graders, and Vicodin use in the same time period was reported by 9.6 percent of 12th graders.

The only significant increases in drug use in the 2002 were past year crack use by 10th graders, from 1.8 percent in 2001 to 2.3 percent in 2002, and past year sedative use by 12th graders, from 5.9 percent in 2001 to 7.0 percent in 2002.


Perceived Risk of Harm, Disapproval, & Perceived Availability

In addition to studying drug use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, MTF collects information on three attitudinal indicators related to drug use. These are perceived risk of harm in taking a drug, disapproval of others who take drugs, and perceived availability of drugs.

The following attitudinal changes are from 2001 to 2002:


Both perceived risk and disapproval of trying marijuana once or twice increased among 10th graders; 12th graders, however, showed a decrease in the perceived risk of smoking marijuana regularly.

Disapproval of MDMA (ecstasy) use increased significantly from 2001 to 2002 among students in all three grades. In addition, perceived risk of occasional MDMA use increased among 8th graders and perceived risk of trying it once or twice increased among 10th and 12th graders.

Perceived risk and disapproval of trying LSD once or twice both increased among 12th graders, but among 10th graders perceived risk of regular LSD use decreased. Notably, perceived availability of LSD declined among students in all three grades.

Perceived risk of trying inhalants once or twice declined among 8th graders, and perceived risk of regular use of these substances decreased among 10th graders.(2)

Among 8th graders, perceived availability of amphetamines decreased.


Cigarettes & Smokeless Tobacco

Cigarette use declined in each grade and several categories of use between 2001 and 2002. This follows several years of gradual decreases in cigarette smoking that started after 1996 for 8th graders and 1997 for 10th and 12th graders. However, year-to-year declines have not always been statistically significant in all grades, and the decreases seen between 2001 and 2002 are particularly notable.


Lifetime use: 8th grade - from 36.6 percent in 2001 to 31.4 percent in 2002; 10th grade - 52.8 percent to 47.4 percent; 12th grade - 61.0 percent to 57.2 percent.

Past month use: 8th grade - 12.2 percent in 2001 to 10.7 percent in 2002; 10th grade - 21.3 percent to 17.7 percent; 12th grade - 29.5 percent to 26.7 percent.

Daily use in past month: 10th grade - 12.2 percent in 2001 to 10.1 percent in 2002; 12th grade - 19.0 percent to 16.9 percent.

Use of bidis (small, flavored cigarettes from India) in the past year declined among 10th graders from 4.9 percent in 2001 to 3.1 percent in 2002. Use of bidis during the past year was reported by 2.7 percent of 8th graders and 5.9 percent of 12th graders in 2002. Use of Kreteks (clove-flavored cigarettes from Indonesia) in the past year was reported by 2.6 percent of 8th graders, 4.9 percent of 10th graders, and 8.4 percent of 12th graders in 2002.


Lifetime use of smokeless tobacco by 10th graders declined from 19.5 percent in 2001 to 16.9 percent in 2002.

MDMA (Ecstasy)

Rates of MDMA (ecstasy) use decreased significantly among 10th graders. For this grade, past year use decreased from 6.2 percent in 2001 to 4.9 percent in 2002 and past month use went from 2.6 percent to 1.8 percent. Use by 8th and 12th graders also showed signs of decline.

Marijuana

Among 10th graders, marijuana/hashish use in the past year decreased from 32.7 percent in 2001 to 30.3 percent in 2002; past month use decreased from 19.8 percent to 17.8 percent; and daily use in the past month decreased from 4.5 percent to 3.9 percent. These are all statistically significant decreases.

For 8th graders in 2002, the past year marijuana use rate - 14.6 percent - is the lowest rate seen since 1994, and well below the peak of 18.3 percent in 1996.

Cocaine and Crack

Cocaine (powder) use remained statistically unchanged across the board from 2001 to 2002. This comes after declines in cocaine use among 10th graders from 2000 to 2001, and among 12th graders between 1999 and 2000. Past year use of powder cocaine was reported by 1.8 percent of 8th graders, 3.4 percent of 10th graders, and 4.4 percent of 12th graders. Past year use of cocaine in any form was reported by 2.3 percent of 8th graders, 4.0 percent of 10th graders, and 5.0 percent of 12th graders.

Crack use, however, showed a significant increase in past year use among 10th graders in 2002, returning to around its 2000 level following a decline in 2001.

Alcohol

Between 2001 and 2002, significant reductions in alcohol use were reported among 8th and 10th graders in many categories, including lifetime, past year, and past month.

Rates of having ever been drunk and of having been drunk in the past year decreased for 8th and 10th graders. Among 10th graders, the rate of binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row) in the past 2 weeks declined, as did the past-month rate of having been drunk.

Heroin & Other Opiates

Heroin use by 8th, 10th and 12th graders remained stable from 2001 to 2002 following a decline from 2000 to 2001 among 10th and 12th graders. In each grade, past year use rates were about 1.0 percent.

These are the results of questions added to the 2002 survey on the nonmedical use of Oxycontin and Vicodin(3) in the past year:


Oxycontin use in the past year without a doctor's orders was reported by 1.3 percent of 8th graders, 3.0 percent of 10th graders, and 4.0 percent of 12th graders.

The nonmedical use of Vicodin in the past year was reported by 2.5 percent of 8th graders, 6.9 percent of 10th graders, and 9.6 percent of 12th graders.


Inhalants

In 2002, inhalant use among 8th and 10th graders was the lowest seen in these grades since their addition to the survey in 1991. Among 8th graders, lifetime use decreased from 17.1 percent in 2001 to 15.2 percent in 2002, and from 15.2 percent to 13.5 percent among 10th graders. Use rates among 12th graders were at their lowest in about 20 years.

However, the 2002 survey reported a decline among 8th graders in the perceived risk of trying inhalants once or twice, and the perceived risk of regular use of inhalants also decreased among 10th graders. Historically, changes in "perceived risk" tend to predict increases or declines in use rates for following years.

Hallucinogens

Hallucinogen use in the lifetime, past year, and past month declined for 12th graders, and past year use was down among 10th graders. LSD in particular showed major changes from 2001 to 2002. Rates of use decreased markedly across the board. Past year use, for example, declined from 6.6 percent in 2001 to 3.5 percent in 2002 among 12th graders, from 4.1 percent to 2.6 percent among 10th graders, and from 2.2 percent to 1.5 percent among 8th graders. These are the lowest rates of LSD use in the history of the survey for each grade.

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