Teen Substance Abuse Report

Teen substance abuse rates described by drug.

Posted Jan 20, 2014

The Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF) measures drug use and attitudes among the nation’s 8th, 10th and 12th graders. Their most recent findings for 2013 have been published and include information on marijuana, cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption.


Students are unlikely to consider regular marijuana use as harmful . There is a strong association between softening attitudes toward marijuana and its increased use among teens. Interesting facts:

  • 23% of 12th graders, 18% of 10th graders smoked pot in the last month;
  • 36% of 12th graders, 29.8% of 10th graders and 12% of 8th graders smoked pot in the last year.

"This is not just an issue of increased daily use," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. "It is important to remember that over the past two decades, levels of THC—the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana—have gone up a great deal, from 3.75 percent in 1995 to an average of 15 percent in today's marijuana cigarettes. Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago."

Prescription Medications and Illegal Drugs

Some of most often-abused prescription medications include Adderall and Ritalin, both used for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Vicodin, used for pain. The good news is that non-medical use of Vicodin as well as dextromethorphan, often found in cough medicine, is way down. Inhalants, usually more popular with younger students, are not as popular as they once were. And while the use of ecstasy is down, use of cocaine and heroin remain steady.

Cigarette Smoking

Cigarette smoking among high school teens is less than 10% across the board for the first time in decades. Surprisingly, tobacco smoking using hookahs is on the rise for 12th graders, topping off at 21.4%

"While cigarette use among youth continues to decline, such progress is threatened by use of other tobacco products such as hookahs," said Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "We must remain vigilant in protecting kids against both old and new agents that promote addiction."


Alcohol use has seen a strong decline among high school seniors, dropped for sophomores and has remained steady for 8th graders.


These are upsetting trends, indicating that our efforts to educate young people about drug and alcohol abuse, particularly the damage such substances can cause to brains that have not yet completely developed, is not hitting the mark.