COVID Pandemic Decreased Substance Use Among US Teens

The percentage of school students across the US reporting substance use decreased significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, survey results show.

The massive self-reported annual Monitoring the Future survey commissioned by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found a dramatic drop in substance use – including alcohol, marijuana, vaping and illicit drugs – the most significant that the institute has seen in a single year since it began MTF in 1975.

On the other hand, as researchers noted, there was a slight drop in response rates across all age groups considering that almost 60% of the students took the survey online from home, where they didn’t had the same privacy or may not have felt as comfortable reporting substance use truthfully.

According to the results of the survey that has encompassed more than 32,000 eighth, 10th, and 12th graders (13-18 years old) from 319 public and private schools across the US, vaping remains the most common method of nicotine consumption among adolescents.

Within the past year, the percent of students who report vaping nicotine dropped significantly from 17% to 12% in eighth-graders, 31% to 20% among 10th-graders, and from 35% to 27% among 12th-graders.

When it comes to alcohol consumption, the drop is also quite significant: the number of 10th graders that said they drank in the past year decreased from 40.7% to 28.5%, compared to 55.3% to 46.5% drop

The same goes for self-reported use of drugs, such as marijuana use, that gave dropped to 7.1%, 17.3%, and 30.5% among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders fell to respectively .

According to NIDA director Nora Volkow, the drop in substance use and the change in teen behavior may have been a “potential consequence” of the COVID pandemic although more work needs to be done to identify the precise causes.

However, the survey results also showed moderate increases in negative mental health indicators – loneliness, anxiety, worry, depression, and sleeping difficulties- since the beginning of the pandemic.

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