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Teens Like Pot And Vaping, But Opioid Misuse Hits Historic Low: Study

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A national survey has found that drug abuse among teens is at historic lows, but they still smoke pot and vape, with or without nicotine.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has been conducting an annual Monitoring the Future Survey since 1975, measuring alcohol, cigarette, and drug use among teens nationwide. As part of the study, teens who participated had to report their drug-related behaviors across three categories: during their lifetime, in the past year, and in the past month.

The University of Michigan conducted the study, and NIDA, which is part of the National Institute of Health, funded it. For the 2017 Monitoring the Future Survey, 43,703 students from 360 different private and public schools reported on their drug use behavior.

Teens Love To Vape

According to the survey, nearly one in three 12th grade students admitted to using some kind of vaping device in the past year. The vaping content ranges from simple nicotine-free flavors to e-liquids with nicotine and even pot. The study notes that many teens may not even know what they are actually vaping and whether it contains nicotine or not. Smoking regular cigarettes and using hookahs, meanwhile, has apparently declined.

The study found that 27.8 percent of seniors in high school have vaped in 2016. Of those, 51.8 percent of 12th graders said they only vaped flavors, 32.8 percent said the liquid also contained nicotine, while 11.1 percent have vaped "hash oil" or marijuana. When asked about specific substances, one in 10 12th graders said they vaped nicotine, while one in 20 vaped marijuana.

Opioid Misuse Drops

Compared to a decade ago, the survey found that teens nowadays no longer misuse opioid-based pain relievers as much. In fact, the rates are now at historic lows with some of the most common pain medications. Among adults, however, opioid overdose rates are still high.

According to the survey, Vicodin misuse among high school seniors has declined to the lowest rate since 2002, when the survey first started measuring it. Vicodin is an opioid pain medication, and the current abuse rates are at just 2 percent, down from 2.9 percent last year and a worrisome 10.5 percent in 2003.

The survey also measured the use, or rather misuse, of narcotics besides heroin and found that misuse in the past year has notably declined among 12th graders, reaching 4.2 percent, compared to the peak rate of 9.5 percent back in 2004. In 2010, more than 54 percent of 12th graders said that such drugs were easy to obtain, while this year, only 35.8 percent said so.

"The decline in both the misuse and perceived availability of opioid medications may reflect recent public health initiatives to discourage opioid misuse to address this crisis," says NIDA director Nora D. Volkow.


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