The data shows a mixed report regarding prescription drug abuse. Twelfth graders reported non-medical use of the opioid painkiller Vicodin at a past year rate of 7.5 percent. Since the survey started measuring its use in 2002, rates hovered near 10 percent until 2010, when the survey started reporting a modest decline. However, past year abuse of the stimulant Adderall, often prescribed to treat ADHD, has increased over the past few years to 7.6 percent among high school seniors, up from 5.4 percent in 2009. Accompanying this increased use is a decrease in the perceived harm associated with using the drug, which dropped nearly 6 percent in the past year-only 35 percent of 12th graders believe that using Adderall occasionally is risky. The survey continues to show that most teens who abused prescription medications were getting them from family members and friends.
The survey also measured abuse of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines containing dextromethorphan─5.6 percent of high school seniors abused them in the past year, a rate that has held relatively steady over the past five years.
The 2012 results also showed a continued steady decline in alcohol use, with reported use at its lowest since the survey began measuring rates. More than 29 percent of eighth graders said they have used alcohol in their lifetime, down from 33.1 percent last year, and significantly lower that peak rate of 55.8 percent in 1994. For 10th graders, 54 percent of teens reported lifetime use of alcohol, down from its peak of 72 percent in 1997. Binge drinking rates (five or more drinks in a row in the previous two weeks) have been slowly declining for eighth graders, at 5.1 percent, down from 6.4 percent in 2011, and 13.3 percent at their peak in 1996.
Cigarette smoking continues at its lowest levels among eighth, 10th and 12th graders, with dramatic long-term improvement. Significant declines were seen in lifetime use among eighth graders, down to 15.5 percent from last year's 18.4 percent, compared to nearly 50 percent at its peak in 1996. Significant declines were also seen in 10th grade lifetime use of cigarettes, down to 27.7 percent from 30.4 percent in 2011. Peak rates for 10th graders were seen in 1996 at 61.2 percent. For some indicators, including past month use in all three grades, cigarette smoking remains lower than marijuana use, a phenomenon that began a few years ago.
The survey also measures several other kinds of tobacco delivery products. For example, past year use of small cigars was reported at nearly 20 percent for 12th graders, with an 18.3 percent rate for hookah water pipes.
"We are very encouraged by the marked declines in tobacco use among youth. However, the documented use of non-cigarette tobacco products continues to be a concern," said Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Preventing addiction includes helping kids be tobacco free so they can enjoy a fighting chance for health."
Source: NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse