Is your teen a substance abuser?
On December 19, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released its annual teen drug abuse survey: “Monitoring the Future 2012 Survey.” The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among teens. The 2012 nationwide survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders comprised 45,449 students from 395 public and private schools.
Substances reviewed included well-known ones such as alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. It also included some emerging classes of drugs including hookah smoking, the prescription drug Adderall, and bath salts. The researchers found that, in general, alcohol and cigarette use has decreased, and illicit drug use, which declined in the late 1990s and early 2000s, has been increasing in recent years. In addition, a four-year rise in marijuana use appears to have leveled off.
The researchers cite a 62-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax that took effect in 2009 as one reason behind the drop in teen smoking. Unfortunately, marijuana use has increased and is a major concern; 36.4% of 12th graders reported that they were marijuana users. A study released earlier this year found that individuals who used marijuana heavily in their teens and continued through adulthood showed a significant drop in IQ between the ages of 13 and 38: an average of 8 points for those who met criteria for marijuana dependence. Those who never used marijuana showed no declines in IQ.
The survey found that alcohol use in general remained at the lowest levels since the survey started; however, there was an upsurge in binge drinking reported by 12th graders and the nonmedical use of the prescription drug Adderall, approved for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall is taken by some students as a presumed study and test-taking aid.
Bath salts are an emerging class of drugs containing one or more synthetic stimulants, which individuals use to get high by swallowing, snorting, or injecting. Because these drugs are relatively new, much is still unknown about how these substances affect the brain and body. They have been linked to an alarming surge in visits to emergency departments and poison control centers due to cardiac and psychiatric symptoms. Concerns about the use of “bath salts” prompted its inclusion in the survey for the first time in 2012. It found that 1.3% of 12th-graders reported past year use.
Questions about the use of small cigars and hookahs, a type of water pipe used to smoke tobacco, were added to the survey for 12th graders for the first time in 2010. About 20% of 12th graders reported using small cigars at least once in 2012—the same rate as 2011—but down from 23.1% in 2010. About the same number of 12th graders reported smoking with hookahs in the past year but only 11% reported using hookahs more than two times during the year.
On December 13, the California Department of Public Health issued a warning that hookah smoking was at least as harmful as cigarette smoking. In recent years, smoking from Middle-Eastern-style water pipes has soared in California together with a proliferation of cafes and lounges that feature hookah smoking.
Healthcare experts note that the soaring popularity of hookahs has been fueled in part by an opinion that the water pipes are more socially acceptable than cigarettes and the erroneous belief that inhaling tobacco smoke drawn through the water filters out some of its toxins. Smoke from hookah tobacco retains all the carcinogens of cigarette smoke; furthermore, it contains more carbon monoxide and added carcinogens from the use of burning coals that are used to keep the nicotine flowing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during a typical hour-long session, a hookah user inhales 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.
12th graders: 41.5%
10th graders: 27.6%
8th graders: 11.0%
12th graders: 17.1%
10th graders: 10.8%
8th graders: 4.9%
12th graders: 25.2%
10th graders: 18.6%
8th graders: 7.7%
After marijuana, prescription and over-the-counter medications account for most of the top drugs abused by 12th graders in the past year. The following list shows the percentage of 12th graders who have used the following drugs in the past year:
Adderall – 7.6%
Vicodin – 7.5%
Cold medicines - 5.6%
Tranquilizers - 5.3%
OxyContin – 4.3%
Ritalin - 2.6%
Methaqualone/Quaaludes - 0.4%
Marijuana – 36.4%
Powder Cocaine - 2.7%
Crack - 1.2%
Methamphetamine – 1.1%
Heroin - 0.6%
Reference: National Institute on Drug Abuse