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University of Michigan study on teenagers
finds marijuana use on the rise, alcohol use on the decline
  Marijuana use is on the rise among teenagers, ecstasy is making a comeback after a decline last decade, smoking is up among early teens, and alcohol use is at historically low levels for all grades studied, the University of Michigan's annual Monitoring the Future study found.
On other topics the survey found:
- Use of ecstasy, which had declined in the early 2000s, is on the increase again.
- There was a small increase in teens injecting heroin, but only among 12th-graders.
- Use of cocaine remained low after declining from levels in the 1980s and 1990s.
Monitoring the Future: Facts and Figures.
The results of the study - which tracks smoking, drinking and drug use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders - were announced today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Lloyd Johnston, principal investigator for the survey and a researcher for U-M's Institute for Social Research, presented the findings alongside R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Johnston has been principal investigator of Monitoring the Future since it started in 1975.
If there is anything policymakers or concerned parents should take away from this year's survey, Johnston said, it's the need to pay more attention to teen smoking and to make sure young teens are aware of the dangers of ecstasy.
Teen smoking
Smoking showed small increases for young teens this year.
Rates of daily smoking during the past 30 days are still low: 3 percent, 7 percent, and 11 percent in 8th, 10th and 12th graders, respectively, the release said.
But those rates are higher when you ask students if they've smoked at any time in the last 30 days. Smoking was down among 12th graders (19.2 percent, compared to 20.1 percent last year), but up slightly among 8th (7.1 percent, up from 6.5 percent in 2009) and 10th graders (13.6 percent, up from 13.1 percent). Smoking is up among teenagers, a U-M survey found. Even so, teen smoking is down from its peak in 1996, when 21 percent of 8th graders, 30 percent of 10th graders and 34 percent of high school seniors had smoked cigarettes within the last month.
Teens do hold smoking in a negative light when considering whom to date. As Johnston explained it, the connection between sex appeal and smoking is different than people might expect.
"For 40 years, cigarette companies have been telling (people) that smoking makes you sexy," he said, but the evidence tells another story.
"The great majority of secondary school students said they 'would prefer to date people who don't smoke'-82 percent, 79 percent, and 73 percent of students in grades 8, 10, and 12," the release said.
"And it's true for both males and females," Johnston said.
Drug use
The story with drug use is a bit more complicated and varied, depending on the drug.
Teen use of marijuana has been on the rise for all three grades over the last three years.
"Perhaps the most troublesome part of it is that daily use of marijuana increased significantly in all three grades in 2010," Johnston said in the release.
Six percent of high school seniors, or 1 in 16, said they smoke pot every single day. Teens don't tend to perceive a danger in smoking pot.
"Access is pretty universal and hasn't really been the problem for teenagers. The big difference comes in their attitudes toward marijuana," Johnston said.
But if marijuana is perceived as less of a threat because its use is so widespread, ecstasy is perceived as less of a threat because it's been out of the headlines in recent years - especially compared to a decade ago, during what Johnston calls the ecstasy epidemic.
Ignorance of its side effects may explain the increased use, Johnston said. "Kids who are in 8th and 10th grade aren't being told why not to use ecstasy," compared to a decade ago when the dangers were made more clear, he said.
Teens who remember neither the ecstasy epidemic of early last decade, nor the public relations effort to address it, don't believe the drug is as dangerous as older teens do. Johnston refers to that as "generational forgetting."
"The drug has an appealing name - who doesn't want to feel ecstasy? That's why it's important to explain the dangers," Johnston said.
There is one category where teen drug use is down across the board: Alcohol. Johnston believes that's the best news of the survey - alcohol use continued its 30-year decline among teenagers, and in 2010 hit historically low levels for all three grades surveyed.
"For 12th graders, 2010 marks the lowest level of alcohol use since the study's inception in 1975. For 8th and 10th graders, it marks the lowest point since these grades were first included in the study in 1991," a press release explained.
Johnston attributed the decline to limited access. Hardly anywhere you go sells to anyone who looks younger than 30 without seeing identification first. That, plus potentially costly law enforcement hassles and negative advertising, have dropped alcohol use to levels never seen.
Only 2.7 percent of high school seniors reported regular daily use. The numbers are 1.1 percent for 10th graders, and down to 0.5 percent for 8th graders.
This marks the the 36th year of the Monitoring the Future study, which started in 1975. Monitoring the Future has always tracked 12th graders, but added 8th and 10th graders to the mix in 1991.
The survey is conducted by researchers at the Survey Research Center of the U-M Institute for Social Research and is funded by grants from National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the National Institutes of Health. The survey's grant is renewable every five years, with the latest renewal coming in 2007.
Some 46,000 students at more than 400 public and private middle and high schools across America were surveyed.
The full findings of the 2010 Monitoring the Future survey will be published in book form by the Institute for Social Research in 2011.
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