Monitoring the Future 2015

monitoring-the-futureEvery year, researchers at the University of Michigan conduct the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, funded by research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The MTF is a long term epidemiological study that that looks at legal and illicit drug use and perceived risk of use among American adolescents and adults. The research has been ongoing since 1975. The MTF, among other things, provides experts with a window into people’s beliefs regarding drugs and alcohol use, allowing them to make informed decisions in the development of intervention techniques.

Monitoring the Future 2015

As the year comes to a close, we have a chance to see the progress we have made and the setbacks we have experienced as a nation. This year’s survey shows that overall; teens are reducing their use of:

  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol (including binge drinking)
  • Prescription Opioids
  • Synthetic Marijuana

“These are some of the lowest numbers we have ever seen,” NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow told CBS News. “Notable is cigarette smoking — it is lower than we’ve ever seen it. Heroin is at the lowest it’s ever been. For prescription opiates, it’s the lowest we have ever seen. Overall this is very good news.”

Less Fire, More Smoke

While the aforementioned findings are promising, there is still work to be done – especially when it comes to marijuana. The researchers found that marijuana use has not declined among teenagers, CBS News reports. In fact, for the first time more high school seniors smoke marijuana than regular cigarettes on a daily basis.

In recent years, the nation has seen a growing tolerance for marijuana. Currently, there are 23 states and DC with medical marijuana programs, and four of the states have passed recreational use legalization for adults. The perceived dangers of marijuana use are fairly low among teenagers and young adults.

The researchers found that teens view marijuana as less risky this year, compared to last year, according to the report. Last year, 36.1 percent of 12th graders said that regular marijuana use could be harmful, compared to 31.9 percent this year.

Developing Brains

While marijuana use may not be as bad for the mind and body as, let’s say alcohol or heroin, marijuana use has been found to have negative effects on the brain – especially the developing brains of teenagers and young adults.

“Among teens, several studies provide evidence showing marijuana’s effects are deleterious,” said Volkow.

Victims of Sexual Assault Remember – Intoxicated or Not

sexual-assaultBad decisions are a byproduct of consuming alcohol, especially for young adults who are ignorant of their limits. For many young adults, drinking as much as you can as fast as you can is synonymous with Friday and Saturday night – a practice that is referred to as binge drinking. While heavy drinking affects men and women in equally adverse ways, women are far more susceptible to life changing outcomes. Every day, women are sexually assaulted and sadly such events often go unreported due to the insidious trend of “victim blaming.”

When women do find the courage to report their assault, if alcohol is involved authorities will often wait until a victim sobers up to interview them. However, new research suggests that women who are intoxicated may remember less than sober victims, but the details they provide were found to be just as accurate, The Daily Mail reports. The findings show that sexual assault victims should be interviewed even when they are under the influence.

Developing New Guidelines

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Leicester in the U.K. Their findings are being used to revise police procedure by the Crown Prosecution Service and Leicestershire Police, according to the article.

“It has been a long held misconception that victims and witnesses who are intoxicated are not able to give as good an account as they would when they are sober,” says Detective Inspector Reme Gibson, from Leicestershire Police’s Rape Investigation Unit. “The delays in speaking with victims accounts sometimes for loss of potential evidence. I hope these findings better support future investigations, particularly in the sexual violence arena which is already often complex and not without challenges.”

Victim Blaming

Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity Women’s Aid, hopes that the findings will help change people’s perceptions about sexual assault and end victim blaming so that people will report their assaults, the article reports.

“It is vital that we move away from the culture of shaming women that pervades our society and prevents women from accessing justice,” said Neate. “All too often the victim’s behaviour is called into question – she was drunk, she was wearing a short skirt – rather than the perpetrator’s actions. This research is a step in the right direction, as it proves that the effects of alcohol have little bearing on a victim’s testimony. We hope that the criminal justice system will take this research seriously.”

Traumatic events can lead to serious psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Left untreated, many will turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate – resulting in addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD and/or addiction, please contact Next Step Intervention. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.

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