U.S. teen drug use down, but problems remain: survey

WASHINGTON – Overall use of illicit drugs by U.S. teenagers has dropped in the past decade, but use of the drug ecstasy is up and abuse of prescription medications remains worrisome, researchers said.

Thirteen percent of eighth grade students reported using an illicit drug at least once in the past year in 2007, down nearly half from 24 percent in 1996, University of Michigan researchers said. Such students are generally 13 or 14 years old.

The annual report on U.S. youth drug use was released by the White House and U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. The results stem from a survey of 48,025 students from 403 U.S. public and private schools in eighth, 10th and 12th grades.

President George W. Bush touted the findings as evidence that his anti-drug efforts have worked.

“On the one hand we’ll interdict and prevent and disrupt drug supply networks. And on the other hand, we’ll work to convince people they shouldn’t use drugs in the first place and those that have, there’s recovery programs for you,” he said.

The researchers who conducted the study noted the decline started in the 1990s.

“The cumulative declines since recent peak levels of drug involvement in the mid-1990s are quite substantial, especially among the youngest students,” University of Michigan researcher Lloyd Johnston said in a statement.

Use of the drug MDMA, commonly called ecstasy, is growing, the report found. It also indicated nonmedical use of prescription medications remains a significant concern, with 15 percent of 12th graders in 2007 reporting using a prescription drug for nonmedical reasons in the prior year.


Teenagers in all three grade levels displayed a gradual decline in the numbers reporting use of illicit drugs, with the decline most pronounced among the eighth graders.

The survey found that 28 percent of 10th graders in 2007 reported use of an illicit drug at least once in the prior year, down from 39 percent in 1997. Among 12th graders, that number was 36 percent, down from a recent peak of 42 percent in 1997, the survey found.