Every 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:
- 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.
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.