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Medical News and Perspectives
February 8, 2006

Shift Seen in Patterns of Drug Use Among Teens

JAMA. 2006;295(6):612-613. doi:10.1001/jama.295.6.612

The latest data on adolescents' attitudes about and use of drugs suggest a decline in the abuse of illicit drugs by older teens. But it also offers some indications that declines in drug use may be slowing among the youngest teens and that many teens continue to abuse prescription drugs.

Results from the annual Monitoring the Future survey, which each year collects data on the attitudes and drug use habits of a nationally representative sample of about 50 000 students in grades 8, 10, and 12 at public and private schools, provide a nuanced picture of drug use patterns among teens. About 16% of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 reported abusing illicit drugs in the past month compared with 19.4% in the 2001 study. But the trend of declining use may be ending for the younger students, reported the researchers from the University of Michigan who conducted the study. For example, 2005 was the first year since 1999 that the reported rate of illicit drug abuse among 8th graders during the past 30 days did not decline from the previous year, with 8.4% reporting such use in 2004 and 8.5% in 2005.