Teenagers are often curious to try new things. At this age, they learn to smoke, drink, and use drugs. It is an unstable, unsafe period because they endanger themselves and others, and develop addictions.
Monitoring the Future (MTF) is a survey about drug use. It surveys 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. MTF asked teenagers about their drug use during the past month, past year, and lifetime. Here are the main results of the 2015 survey.
At a glance, the survey is showing encouraging news. Consumption of most of the substances has declined for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. This is especially true in the past year. However, the older the students, the higher the consumption. The exceptions are inhalants and methamphetamine.
Some of the drugs show low usage among teenagers. However, taking into consideration that 8th graders are just 14 years old, that 2.3% of them have already used MDMA is an alarming sign.
- 3.1% of 8th graders admitted to having used K2/Spice (synthetic marijuana)
- 5.2% of 10th graders have taken adderall
- 38.6% of 12th graders have taken illicit drugs, just during the past year
Electronic cigarettes are a recent trend, first invented in 2003 in China. It is an electronic device meant to replace tobacco cigarettes. The fluid in the e-cigarette is usually made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, and flavorings. Unfortunately, studies show that e-cigarette smokers are less likely to quit smoking. In a randomized trial, 29% of e-cigarette smokers continued e-cigarettes at 6-months compared to only 8% of nicotine patch users. This suggests that the e-cigarette is not an effective means of quitting. In addition, scientists have found cartridges to contain hazards, such as cytotoxic heavy metal and silicate particles.
The usage of e-cigarettes among 8th graders grew from 8.7% to 9.5% (past month, 2014 – 2015). NIDA Director, Dr. Nora Volkow, discussed an NIH study of a possible link between e-cigarettes and initiation of tobacco use. She stated that nicotine is an addictive substance. By its nature, it produces neuroplastic changes in the brain. The goal of the study was to determine whether early exposure of teens to nicotine could prime their brain for the rewarding effects of other drugs. Do kids exposed to electronic cigarettes move to regular cigarettes? The study proved this theory.
Another concern nowadays is the increasing popularity of fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid. This danger is confirmed by the dramatic increase in deaths from overdoses of this drug. This opioid is 80 times as potent as morphine, and hundreds of times more potent than heroin. MTF did not ask about fentanyl use, because it is a new drug. Moreover, fentanyl is often sold as heroin, or mixed with cocaine, MDMA, and heroin. Hence, the increasing number of deaths is a result of people not even knowing what they are taking.