Teen Drug Use Continues To Decline

National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign Messages Have Positive Impact on Overall Decline in Teen Drug UseIllicit drug use among teens is on the decline, according to the largest and most comprehensive study of drug use in the United States. (NSDUH) released yesterday showed a nine percent decrease in overall illicit drug use among American youth between the ages of 12 and 17 from 2002 to 2004.


The findings of the NSDUH are consistent with another large-scale longitudinal survey, Monitoring the Future, which shows a reduction in teen drug use by 17 percent in the past three years.

According to the NSDUH, a large number of teens reported hearing anti-drug messages, and they are making a significant impact. Out-of-school exposure to prevention messages in the past year was reported by 83% of youths aged 12 to 17. Past month use of illicit drugs was lower among those who were exposed to those messages than among those not exposed (10.3% vs. 11.8%). Similarly, a recently issued SAMHSA report, “Youths’ Exposure to Substance Use Prevention Messages: 2003,” demonstrated that those who have seen or heard alcohol or drug prevention messages from the media are significantly less likely to abuse drugs than their peers.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy conducts the Nation’s most visible effort to prevent teen drug use through the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Collaborating with the Partnership for a Drug Free America, the Campaign targets youth, especially those making the difficult transition from middle school to high school, and conveys the various risks of using marijuana. It also reaches parents, encouraging them to talk to their children about drugs and monitor their behaviors, a skill shown to reduce drug use. The Campaign reaches 86% of youth 4.4 times a week and 72% of parents 3.6 times a week via television, radio, print publications and the Internet.

The latest NSDUH findings also reaffirmed the crucial role parents play in keeping their children drug-free. Most youths reported that their parents would strongly disapprove of their trying marijuana once or twice. Among these teens, only 5.1% had used marijuana in the past month. However, among youths who perceived that their parents would only somewhat disapprove or neither approve nor disapprove of their trying, 30% used marijuana.

The NSDUH also showed that there were statistically significant declines in past-year and lifetime use of marijuana among youth from 2002 to 2004. Particularly significant was an 11% decline in current (past month) marijuana use among boys, from 9.1% in 2002, down to 8.1% in 2004. Consistent with this finding, the initiation rate for male youths declined by 16%, from 6.3% in 2002 to 5.3% in 2004. In addition, there was a major decline (33%) in methamphetamine use among teens.

The average age of first marijuana use among recent initiates increased from 17 years in 2002 to 18 years in 2004. For initiation occurring under age 21, the mean age of initiation was 16 years in 2004, compared to 15.9 years in both 2002 and 2003.

Teen perception of the risk of drug use continues to remain high. The % age of youths aged 12 to 17 indicating that smoking marijuana once a month was a great risk increased to 35% in 2004 from 32.4% in 2003. The perception of risk in smoking marijuana once or twice a week increased from 51.5% in 2002 to 54.4 % in 2003, then remained stable at 54.7% in 2004.

Source: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Sept.2005
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