Since 1975, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use among adolescents across the country in its Monitoring the Future study. One of the most talked-about findings has undoubtedly been the low rate of youth opioid use. Although the opioid crisis rages on among young and mid-life adults, adolescent use is falling; Teens are misusing opioid pain medications less frequently, resulting in historic lows. This is good news: indicating that teens now have less access to opioids; from a reduction in prescriptions, better awareness of the issue, or a combination or both.
This year’s Monitoring the Future report exposed another trend that parents should know more about: Vaping. Nearly one in three high school seniors reported using a vape device in the past year. At Caron, we launched a program to help schools and other organizations understand how to deal with the rampant increase in vaping. The messages around nicotine prevention should be extended to vaping. It is positioned in the adult world as a safe nicotine cessation tool, however teenagers are using vaping as an introduction to nicotine, rather than as a cessation approach. There simply has not been enough research on the effects of vaping. The concept that it is a “healthier alternative” to smoking sends a dangerous message to teens.
Marijuana use, on the other hand, continues unabated. High school seniors in states with legalized medical marijuana have more than twice the rate of youth use than those states that don’t. This result reinforces the alarming findings from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report, and others, showing that the legalization of marijuana is detrimental to teens and young adults. We have previously shared that marijuana poses many immediate and long term risks to young adults under the age of 25, such as:
I discussed the dangerous impact of marijuana in an article for parents we shared following the release of Caron’s Harris poll in which a quarter of parents found it acceptable to share a marijuana joint with their 18-or-older child. In my piece, I included advice for parents on talking to their children about the drug in an age appropriate way.
Given the news of high rates of marijuana use, I encourage all parents to revisit that post and have another conversation with their teens. It’s a good time of the year to slow down and really make the most of your quality time with your family – which includes discussing these very important topics that can truly impact our wellness in 2018.