A new report says the rate of drug use among high school seniors who used narcotics other than heroin during the last year decreased by a half compared to 12 years ago. The rate decreased from 9.5 percent in 2004 to 4.8 percent in 2016.

The study, "Monitoring the Future," published Dec. 13 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is under the National Institutes of Health, brought good news concerning prescriptions of pain relievers such as OxyContin.

Drug Abuse Among High School Seniors – Dropping Rates

Experts cannot say with certainty what the underlying cause behind this trend is. However, there has been a continuous decline in the drug abuse rates throughout the last decade. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of NIDA, while this trend lacks a solid explanation yet, it is still terrific news.

"We are heartened to see that most illicit drug use is not increasing, non-medical use of prescription opioids is decreasing, and there is improvement in alcohol and cigarette use rates," noted Volkow.

While researchers still investigate the possible reasons that have led to this trend, Samuel Ball, president and CEO of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, noted that it is complicated to identify the main cause, although the shift in the general attitude may have contributed to this favorable statistic.

"You hope they're getting the message that these drugs can be deadly, that parents are doing a better job of taking a look of what's in their medicine cabinets, but it's hard to say," noted Ball.

Declining Tendency In Cigarette And Alcohol Use Among High School Seniors

Back in 1991, almost 11 percent of high school seniors said they smoked half a pack of cigarettes or more every day. However, the rate has decreased significantly, as only 1.8 percent reported smoking this much. E-cigarette use has also dropped among high school seniors, from 16 percent last year to 12 percent in 2016.

Additionally, alcohol use has also dropped, reaching a new low. Only 37.3 percent of the high school seniors reported having been drunk at least once, compared to 53.2 percent in 2001.

According to George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, while these rates have indeed dropped significantly, they still remain unacceptably high. Further diminishing the drinking rates for underage high school children should be a main priority.

 "That is gigantic good fortune, and really I don't think we as a field or society more generally have spent as much time as we should have celebrating and reflecting on why today's kids are so great in this regard," noted Jonathan Caulkins, a drug policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University.

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