Teens Are Vaping More, But The Amount Of Teens Abusing Alcohol And Opioids Has Lowered

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A new study shows that while more teens are vaping than ever, the number of teens binge drinking and using opioids has gone down, USA Today is reporting. The annual Monitoring the Future survey is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. A total of 44,482 students from 392 schools were polled this year, and it was discovered that one-in-three high school seniors had vaped in the past year. In addition, almost 21 percent of high school seniors said they had vaped a nicotine product in the past 30 days. This number is 11 percent higher than last year, marking the largest one-year increase of any substance use in the 43 years the survey has been conducted.

On the other hand, use of other illegal drugs was either the same or had declined. Marijuana use stayed about the same as last year, with almost one-in-four students reporting having using it in the past 30 days. Marijuana remains the most common illegal drug used among high school students. However, the amount of students vaping marijuana increased from 2017, with last year’s number coming in at 9.5 percent and this year’s number coming in at 13.1 percent. Nicotine use also increased, with 28.5 percent of seniors saying they had used some form of nicotine in the past 30 days. Tobacco use decreased overall, however, and cigarette use is at an all-time low. Not as many teens used other tobacco products, like cigars and hookahs, either.

Binge drinking and misuse of opioids have significantly decreased from last year, too. Fewer than 2 percent of teens have reported using Vicodin, for example, which is a 10.5 percent decrease from 15 years ago. A lot of this could be due to lack of access. While two-in-three sophomores said that acquiring a vaping device or nicotine-packed liquid pod was “very easy” or “fairly easy,” only one-in-three seniors said prescription opioids were easy to get — a decrease from the 54 percent who said so in 2010. This could be due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraging doctors to monitor their use, resulting in doctors prescribing painkillers with addictive qualities less often.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has described teen vaping as an “epidemic,” but Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, says the idea that vaping will lead to the use of cigarettes or other tobacco products is a “mythical gateway effect.” Some even see vaping as a good thing, as the use of cocaine, synthetic marijuana, and ecstasy are also at a new low. Others theorize that the decrease in harder drugs isn’t due to an increase in vaping, but can more likely be attributed to teens spending more time on their devices rather than in social settings where peer pressure is prevalent.