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Vol. LXIV, No. 3
February 3, 2012

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Survey on Teen Drug Use Shows Pot Up, Cigarettes, Alcohol Down
NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow announces results of 2011 Monitoring the Future survey.
NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow announces results of 2011 Monitoring the Future survey.

The 2011 Monitoring the Future survey, an annual measure of drug use and attitudes among the nation’s 8th, 10th and 12th-graders, shows cigarette and alcohol use in all grades at their lowest point since the survey began polling teens in 1975. Although rates of decline have slowed over recent years, there are continued high rates of abuse of other tobacco products such as hookahs, small cigars and smokeless tobacco. Marijuana use continues at high levels, with more teens abusing marijuana than cigarettes, and prescription drugs continue to be abused at high levels.

NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow welcomed the positive news about declining trends in cigarette and alcohol use, but said more must be done to decrease usage levels.

Concerns about the use of synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or spice, prompted its inclusion in the survey for the first time in 2011. Surprisingly, 11.4 percent of 12th-graders reported using the synthetic marijuana in the past year.

“K2 and spice are dangerous drugs that can cause serious harm,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “We will continue to work with the public health and safety community to respond to this emerging threat. [In] the meantime, parents must take action. Parents are the most powerful force in the lives of young people, and we ask that all of them talk to their teens today about the serious consequences of using marijuana, K2, or spice.”

There was mixed news seen in the non-medical use of prescription drugs. For opioid painkillers, Vicodin abuse was similar to or less than previous years, but there were no decreases seen for OxyContin. Abuse of the ADHD medications Adderall and Ritalin also remained about the same as last year among 12th-graders.

To help educate teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, NIDA has launched an updated prescription drug section on its teen web site, which includes interactive videos and other tools to help teens make healthy decisions and understand the risks of abusing prescription drugs: NIHRecord Icon

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