While government headlines about the opioid overdose epidemic are everywhere, a new government study shows that teen opioid abuse is actually on a dramatic decline.
That’s good news out of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) annual survey of 8th, 10th and 12th graders.
In the past ten years, opioid abuse has declined 40% from 9% of high school seniors reporting abusing narcotics (other than heroin) in 2005, to 5.4% in 2015, meaning approximately 1 in 10 seniors abused opioids in 2005, to 1 in 20 seniors today.
Significant declines have been observed in the last five years: 8.7% in 2011, to 7.9% in 2012, to 7.1% in 2013, to 6.1% in 2014 and to 5.4% in 2015.
The survey also found decreasing use of alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants and synthetic drugs among teens, but the use of marijuana remained steady.
“These are some of the lowest numbers we have ever seen,” NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow told CBS News. “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.”
Researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor have been conducting the survey since 1975 as a means to measure teens’ (8th, 10th and 12th graders) use and attitudes about drugs and alcohol.
Other data from the survey include:
Nine percent of 8th graders, 23.5 percent of 10th graders, and 37.4 percent of 12th graders reported past-month use of alcohol, which was significantly lower than in 2009, when rates were 14.9 percent, 30.4 percent, and 43.5 percent, respectively.
Tobacco and e-Cigarettes
Cigarette smoking by youth continues to drop and is currently at its lowest rate in the survey’s history. Only 1.4 percent of 8th graders reported smoking every day in 2014, compared to 2.7 percent in 2009; 3.2 percent of 10th graders reported smoking daily, compared to 4.4 percent in 2013 and 6.3 percent in 2009; and 6.7 percent of high school seniors reported smoking daily in 2014, down from 8.5 percent in 2013 and 11.2 percent in 2009. In 1997, at its peak, nearly a quarter of seniors were daily smokers.
Past-year use of MDMA (also known as ecstasy or “Molly”) saw a significant decline among 10th graders to 2.3 percent in 2014, from 3.6 percent in 2013 and 6.2 percent in 2001, when it peaked.
Past-year use of heroin remained very low in all three grades with 12th graders heroin use declining from 0.6% in 2014 to 0.5% in 2015, and down from 0.9% in 2010.
The annual survey is funded by NIDA and conducted by the University of Michigan. Results from the survey are released each December.