New Survey: Teen Use of Drugs

By Ellen Kuwana
Neuroscience for Kids Staff Writer
January 18, 2002

A national survey called Monitoring the Future has been compiled annually for the past 27 years by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research with support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For the 2001 survey, more than 44,000 students in public and private schools were interviewed about their drug use. The researchers are cautiously optimistic about the results of the survey, emphasizing that education about the effects of drugs is still important. Let's take a look at the numbers.

Cigarette Use
Students in grades 8, 10 and 12 are smoking less, continuing a downward trend since a peak in teenage smoking in 1996.
8th grade15%12%
10th grade24%21%
12th grade31%30%
The reduction in the use of cigarettes in 2001 may be attributed in part to anti-tobacco campaigns that have brought greater awareness of cigarettes' link to cancer and to its addictive effects. ( Complete statistics on cigarette use.)

Alcohol Use

The survey also found that alcohol has remained the drug used most by teens. Researchers reported that 80% of 12th graders said that they had used alcohol at some time; 70% of 10th graders and 50% of 8th graders reported they had used alcohol. These numbers are approximately one percentage point lower than the previous year.

Other Drugs

The stimulant ecstasy, the drug of choice during "raves," has increased in popularity among teens each year since 1999. The survey reported ecstasy use at 5% of 8th graders, 8% of 10th graders and 12% of 12th graders which represents the first decrease in ecstasy use over the years. This small decrease may be because teens are becoming aware of the dangers associated with using ecstasy.

The use of the opiate drug heroin also decreased, most dramatically among students in grades 10 and 12. Less than two percent of students in all grades reported having used heroin at some time.

Use of inhalants decreased slightly among students in all age groups. Inhalants are used more often by younger students: 17% of 8th graders used inhalants at one time, compared to 15% of 10th graders and 13% of 12th graders. LSD and cocaine use have both decreased over the past year; marijuana use stayed at about the same level.


  1. Press Release from Monitoring the Future Study
  2. American teens smoking and using drugs less, in Seattle P-I, December 20, 2001
  3. Office of National Drug Control Press Release, December 19, 2001
  4. 2000 Monitoring the Future Study

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