More American teens may be saying no to drugs, according to the results of a national survey on drug use and health published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Each year, government researchers survey approximately 67,500 people about their use of illegal drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. The survey respondents also answer questions about whether they received treatment for a substance abuse problem and whether they'd experienced or been treated for mental health problems such as depression.
Here are some of the key findings on trends in teen substance use in 2004:
- Overall teen drug use is down. Between 2002 and 2004, the percentage of 12- to 17-year-olds using illegal drugs declined from 11.6% to 10.6%.
- Marijuana was the most commonly used illegal drug in 2004. Between 2002 and 2004, the number of teen boys who used marijuana dropped from 9.1% to 8.1%, but it remained about level for teen girls during the same time period.
- Meth and cocaine use is down in teens. Use of methamphetamines and cocaine by 12- to 17-year-olds declined from 2002 to 2004.
- The rate of drug use differed by race and ethnicity. Twenty-six percent of American Indian or Alaska Native teens, 12% of teens of two or more races, 11% of white teens, 10% of Hispanic teens, 9% of black teens, and 6% of Asian teens currently used illegal drugs.
- The rate of underage drinking remained about the same. About 10.8 million 12- to 20-year-old youth (about 29% of the kids in this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the month before the survey, figures similar to those in 2002 and 2003. Nearly 7.4 million of underage drinkers drank five or more drinks on one occasion in the last month, and 2.4 million people in this age group drank heavily (or binge drank on 5 or more days of the last month).
- Tobacco use declined among teens. Only 11.9% of teens used cigarettes in the month before the 2004 survey, down from 13% in 2002.
- Teen girls are more likely to smoke than teen boys. Among 12- to 17-year-olds, 12.5% of teen girls smoked, compared to 11.3% of teen boys.
- More parents talk to teens about drug dangers. In 2004, more than 60% of 12- to 17-year-olds said they'd talked with at least one parent in the last year about the dangers of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, compared to the 2002 rate of 58.1%.
What This Means to You: The results of this government study indicate some positive trends in teen substance abuse - illegal drug and tobacco use rates have declined in the last few years, and more parents are talking to their teens about substance abuse dangers. This survey also suggests that teens of parents who kept a close eye on their kids - by helping them with homework or enforcing curfews on school nights - used drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes less often than teens of parents who didn't monitor their children.
Spending time with your child and his or her friends, supervising your child's homework, and supporting your child's school and extracurricular activities are just a few ways you can foster closeness and connectedness between you and your child. If you're concerned that your child may be using drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes, talk to your child's doctor or a mental health professional.
Source: 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), September 8, 2005
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: October 2005