Drug trends among American teens

ANN ARBOR---With a few notable exceptions, drug use among American adolescents held steady in 1999, according to the latest results from the Monitoring the Future study, conducted at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR). Reporting on the 25th national survey of high school seniors, and the ninth national survey of eighth- and 10th-graders, ISR research scientists Lloyd D. Johnston, Jerald G. Bachman, and Patrick M. O'Malley find that, in general, the changes in 1999 are modest.

"We are down some from the recent peak levels in overall illicit drug use by American teen-agers, which were reached in 1996 and 1997," states Johnston, "but not much of that improvement occurred this year. I am hopeful that this is just a pause in a longer-term decline. In fact, we saw such a pause in the 80s, in the middle of what turned out to be a continuing decline in drug use."

The investigators note that, after several years of steady increase, the annual prevalence rates for most drugs reached their recent peak levels in the mid 1990s---inhalants in 1995; hallucinogens, including LSD and PCP, in 1996; and marijuana and amphetamines in 1996 or 1997 (depending on the age of the students). The overall proportions reporting any illicit drug use in the prior year peaked among younger teens in 1996 and among older teens in 1997. In general, the usage statistics have been receding since then, at least until 1999.

Drugs which showed little change in use this year include marijuana, amphetamines, hallucinogens, tranquilizers, and heroin.

Monitoring the Future is conducted at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and is supported under a series of research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

One of the brightest spots in this year's story is that inhalant use appeared to continue its longer-term

Contact: Diane Swanbrow
University of Michigan

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