The following is excerpted from an online article posted by EurekAlert!
The percentage of adolescents reporting they used any illicit substances in 2023 continued to hold steady below the pre-pandemic levels reported in 2020, with 10.9% of eighth graders, 19.8% of 10th graders, and 31.2% of 12th graders reporting any illicit drug use in the past year, according to the latest results from the Monitoring the Future survey. Reported use for almost all substances decreased dramatically between 2020 and 2021, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and related changes like school closures and social distancing. In 2022, most reported substance use among adolescents held steady at these lowered levels, and these latest data show that this trend has continued into 2023.
The Monitoring the Future survey is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.
The 2023 data continue to document stable or declining trends in the use of illicit drugs among young people over many years. However, importantly, other research has reported a dramatic rise in overdose deaths among teens between 2010 to 2021, which remained elevated well into 2022 according to a NIDA analysis of CDC and Census data. This increase is largely attributed to illicit fentanyl, a potent synthetic drug, contaminating the supply of counterfeit pills made to resemble prescription medications. Taken together, these data suggest that while drug use is not becoming more common among young people, it is becoming more dangerous.
Specifically, alcohol use, nicotine vaping, marijuana use, and any illicit drug use other than marijuana all remained stable in 2023.
“Research has shown that delaying the start of substance use among young people, even by one year, can decrease substance use for the rest of their lives. We may be seeing this play out in real-time,” said Nora Volkow, M.D., NIDA director. “This trend is reassuring. Though, it remains crucial to continue to educate young people about the risks and harms of substance use in an open and honest way, emphasizing that illicit pills and other substances may contain deadly fentanyl.”