Nicholas Prieur, 734-763-5043, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marijuana Use Edges Upward
ANN ARBOR—Marijuana use among adolescents edged upward in 2017, the first significant increase in
seven years. Overall, past-year use of marijuana significantly increased by 1.3% to 24% in 2017 for 8th, 10th,
and 12th graders combined. Specifically, in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades the respective increases were 0.8% (to
10.1%), 1.6% (to 25.5%) and 1.5% (to 37.1%). The increase is statistically significant when all three grades are
“This increase has been expected by many” said Richard Miech, the Principal Investigator of the study.
“Historically marijuana use has gone up as adolescents see less risk of harm in using it. We’ve found that the
risk adolescents see in marijuana use has been steadily going down for years to the point that it is now at the
lowest level we’ve seen in four decades.”
The results come from the annual Monitoring the Future study, now in its 43rd year. About 45,000 students in
some 380 public and private secondary schools have been surveyed each year in this U.S. national study, designed
and conducted by research scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by
the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Students in grades 8, 10 and 12 are surveyed.
This increase in marijuana drove trends in any illicit drug use in the past year. In both 12th and 10th grade this
measure increased (although the increase was not statistically significant), while use of any illicit drug use other
than marijuana declined (although the decrease was not statistically significant). In 8th grade neither of these
drug use measures significantly changed, although they both increased slightly.
First-Ever U.S. Standard Estimates for Vaping of Nicotine, Marijuana, and Flavoring
The 2017 survey also reports first-ever national, standard estimates of nicotine vaping, marijuana vaping,
flavoring-only vaping, and any vaping. Previously, no national study has published estimates for vaping of
specific substances for the standard time periods of past 30 days, past year, and lifetime.
Levels of marijuana vaping are considerable. One in ten 12th grade students vaped marijuana in the past year,
and levels were 8% and 3% for 10th and 8th grade students, respectively. These annual levels are about the same
as the levels for lifetime prevalence1 of vaping marijuana use, indicating that almost all marijuana vaping had
occurred within one year of the survey.
Levels of nicotine vaping are also considerable, with 19% of 12th grade students vaping nicotine in the past
year. The annual prevalence levels were 16% and 8% for 10th and 8th grade students, respectively. It is also
possible that additional students are getting nicotine in what they vape but are not aware of it, so these are lower
Levels of overall vaping were similar in 2017 to their previous levels in 2016, although the measures are not
directly comparable. Updated vaping questions in 2017 asked about vaping of specific substances, while in
previous years vaping questions were about any vaping in general. With this caveat, the percentage of students
in 2017 who reported vaping flavoring, marijuana, or nicotine was similar to those who reported that they had
vaped anything in 2016, with the two respective percentages for use in the past 30 days at 17% in 2017and 13%
in 2016 among 12th grade students, 13% and 11% for 10th grade students, and 7% and 6% for 8th grade students.
“These findings emphasize that vaping has progressed well beyond a cigarette alternative,” said Richard Miech.
“Vaping has become a new delivery device for a number of substances, and this number will likely increase in
the years to come.”
Cigarettes and Several Other Tobacco Products Decline in Use
Cigarette smoking by teens continued to decline in 2017. For the three grades combined, all measures
(lifetime, 30-day, daily, and half-pack/day) are at historic lows since first measured in all three grades in 1991.
Since the peak levels reached in the mid-1990s, lifetime prevalence has fallen by 71%, 30-day prevalence by
81%, daily prevalence by 86%, and current half-pack-a-day prevalence by 91%. The prevalence of smoking a
half-pack-per-day in the 30 days before the survey now stands at just 0.2% for 8th graders, 0.7% for 10th
graders, and 1.7% for 12th graders.
“The health implications of these dramatic declines in smoking are enormous for this generation of young
people” says Lloyd Johnston, the previous director of the study. “Long-term increases in perceived risk and
personal disapproval of smoking have accompanied these changes, as has a long-term drop in the perceived
availability of cigarettes to these age groups.”
Lifetime prevalence and daily prevalence both fell significantly in 2017; 30-day prevalence fell, but not
significantly, and half-pack-a day prevalence held steady at low levels.
Smokeless tobacco also showed a continuing decline this year with 30-day prevalence reaching a low point for
the three grades individually and combined. It has fallen for the grades combined by nearly two-thirds, from
9.7% in 1992 to 3.5% in 2017, including a non-significant drop in 2017 of 0.7%.
Snus, a form of smokeless tobacco, showed a significant decline in use this year for the three grades combined
(annual prevalence fell from 3.6% to 2.6%).
Use of a hookah pipe to smoke tobacco had been increasing earlier in the decade and reached a substantial
proportion of the age group, but annual prevalence has fallen by more than half since 2014, from 23% to 10%
in 2017 for the three grades combined (including a significant decline this year of 2.9 percentage points). “The
use of hookah appears to be fading out,” conclude the investigators.
Use of both flavored little cigars and regular little cigars is down modestly since first being measured in all
three grades in 2014, but did not continue to decline this year. Thirty-day prevalence is at 5.4% for flavored and
3.7% for regular little cigars.
Alcohol Use Levels, After a Long Decline
In general, alcohol use by adolescents has been in a long-term decline that actually first began in the 1980s and
was interrupted for a few years during the relapse phase in the substance use epidemic in the 1990s.
In 2017, however, lifetime prevalence, annual prevalence, 30-day prevalence, and daily prevalence all showed
little or no change with no significant changes for any grade or for the three grades combined. This is the first
time this has happened in many years and may herald the end of the long-term decline in adolescent alcohol use.
It is worth noting, however, that prior to this year lifetime prevalence and annual prevalence for the three grades
combined both trended down by roughly four-tenths from the peak levels of use reached in the mid-1990s; 30-
day prevalence is down by about one-half since then; and daily prevalence is now down by two-thirds. “These
are dramatic declines for such a culturally ingrained behavior and good news to many parents,” note the
investigators. “However, we saw no further declines in 2017.”
Two measures of heavy alcohol use–having been drunk in the past 30 days and binge drinking (having had
five or more drinks in a row at least once in the prior two weeks)—similarly have trended down by over half
from their peak rates reached in the mid-to-late-1990s. However, the decline did not continue into 2017. In 2017
binge drinking was reported by 4% of 8th graders, 10%, of 10th graders, and 17% of 12 graders. Extreme binge
drinking, defined as drinking 10 or more drinks, or even 15 or more drinks, in a row during a single occasion in
the past two weeks was added to the study in 2005. Fortunately, both measures have seen a drop of more than
half since their peak rates observed in 2006, but here also no further decline this year.
Use of Inhalants Increases among 8th graders
Use of inhalants significantly increased among 8th grade students in 2017. Inhalant use includes sniffing glue,
gases, or sprays, and is an unusual type of substance use because it is more common among younger than older
adolescents. In 2017 the percent of 8th grade students who had ever used inhalants in their lifetime increased
1.2% to 8.9%, a significant increase; use in the past 12 months increased 0.9% to 4.7%, also a significant increase.
This upturn may mark the end of a gradual decline that started nearly a decade earlier in 2008.
For some years MTF has warned that inhalant use is primed to increase. Perceptions of risk from using inhalants
among 8th graders have been steadily declining since 2010 (Table 8-1), which is often a leading indicator of future
increases in prevalence.
Any illicit drug use including inhalants also significantly increased among 8th grade students in 2017. Lifetime
use increased 2.7% to 23.3% and past 12 month use increased 2.3% to 15.8%, both significant increases. These
increases were driven primarily by the upturn in inhalant use.
Heroin and Opioid Use Remains Low Among Adolescents
The opioid epidemic among adults has received much attention in recent months, and MTF offers the opportunity
to see what is happening with opioid use among adolescents. Heroin use by adolescents has always been low,
and did not significantly change in the 8th, 10th, or 12th grades in 2017, with annual use levels at 0.4% or lower in
all three grades.
Misuse of prescription opioids is reported only for 12th grade students; it continued a decade-long decline in 2017,
although this year’s decline was not statistically significant. Use in the past 12 months decreased 0.5% to 4.2%
in 2017, and is now at a level that is less than half of the 9.5% prevalence recorded in 2004. Vicodin, which has
had the highest level of use among the opioid analgesics, showed a significant decline in past 12 month use among
12th graders in 2017 from 2.9% to 2.0%. Its annual prevalence is now at the lowest levels in all three grades
observed since it was first included in the study in 2002.
Tables summarizing estimates for the drugs discussed below, as well as additional drugs, are here:
The findings summarized here will be published by the end of January in a forthcoming volume.
1 Prevalence refers to the percent of the study sample that report using a drug once or more during a given
period—i.e.in their lifetime, past 12 months [annual prevalence], past 30 days, and daily in the past 30 days.
Monitoring the Future has been funded under a series of competing, investigator initiated research grants (R01
DA001411 and R01 DA016575) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the National Institutes of
Health. The lead investigators are Richard Miech (principal investigator), John Schulenberg, Lloyd Johnston,
Patrick O’Malley, Jerald Bachman, and Megan Patrick—all research professors at the University of Michigan’s
Institute for Social Research. Surveys of nationally representative samples of American high school seniors
were begun in 1975, making the class of 2017 the 43rd such class surveyed. Surveys of 8th and 10th graders
were added to the design in 1991, making the 2017 nationally representative samples the 27th such classes
surveyed. The samples are drawn separately at each grade level to be representative of students in that grade in
public and private secondary schools across the coterminous United States. The findings summarized here will
be published in January in a forthcoming volume: Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Miech, R.A., Bachman, J.
G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2018). Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of
key findings, 2017. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Institute for Social Research, the University of Michigan. The content
presented here is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of
the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or the National Institutes of Health.
Scary! Prefrontal cortical development continues until the mid-20’s. It controls judgement/impulsivity. It’s greatly impaired by pot. Other countries, such as the Netherlands prohibit use of pot (though legal) until after that age–which is quite sensible. Now that so many areas have legalized pot, it’s perceived (incorrectly) as “safe”-which it’s not!
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