The following is excerpted from an online article posted by HealthDay.
Fewer U.S. teenagers are drinking and smoking these days, but marijuana and vaping have gained in popularity — particularly among kids with lots of unsupervised free time.
Those are among the findings of a new study tracking substance use trends among American teens over the past 30 years.
The researchers found that while substance use has generally declined over time, there were two notable exceptions: marijuana use, which has been inching up for many years and vaping of nicotine and marijuana, which has surged in the past several years.
The vaping trend is especially striking, said lead researcher Noah Kreski, of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, in New York City.
“It soared in just three years,” Kreski said.
Between 2017 and 2019, the percentage of U.S. teenagers who said they’d vaped nicotine in the past month rose from 7% to 17%, the investigators found. The relative increase in marijuana vaping was even greater — from just over 3% to almost 10%.
Marijuana use, in general, has also risen since the 1990s — in contrast to teenagers’ use of other drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol.
It’s not clear why from the study, but changing social norms around marijuana is one likely reason, according to Kreski.
Regardless of the type of substance use, rates were highest among teenagers who had a job or who spent a lot of time with friends, without adults around.
On the other hand, substance use was least common among kids who did not socialize much or who took part in structured activities, like sports.
In fact, changing patterns in how kids spend their free time may help explain the decline in most types of substance use, the findings suggest: Compared with their predecessors in the 1990s, teenagers today “party” less often and are less likely to have a part-time job.
The new findings, published in the journal Substance Use and Misuse, come from an ongoing, nationally representative study tracking U.S. teenagers’ alcohol and drug use. Kreski’s team focused on over 530,000 teens who answered survey questions between 1991 and 2019.