The 2016 “Monitoring the Future” annual survey results have been released from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the study reflects changing teen behaviors and choices about drugs in a social media-infused world. The results show a continued long-term decline in the use of many illicit substances, including cannabis as well as alcohol, tobacco, and misuse of some prescription medications. The survey measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse is part of the NIH.
The MTF survey, the only large-scale federal youth survey on substance use that releases findings the same year the data is collected and has been conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor since 1975. Findings from the survey indicate that past year use of any illicit drug is down from recent peaks in all three grade levels.
What the study shows is how cannabis use in the past month among eighth graders dropped significantly in 2016 to 5.4 percent, from 6.5 percent in 2015. Daily use among eighth graders dropped in 2016 to 0.7 percent from 1.1 percent in 2015. However, among high school seniors, 22.5 percent report past month marijuana use and 6 percent report daily use; both measures remained relatively stable from last year. Similarly, rates of cannabis use in the past year among 10th graders also remained stable compared to 2015, but are at their lowest levels in over two decades.
National surveys have continued to show that teen cannabis use rates are falling across the country. Federal data released late last year showed that teen use rates in Colorado and Washington were essentially flat, they covered 2014, the first year commercial cannabis was available in those states. Rates of cannabis use among Colorado’s teenagers are essentially unchanged in the years since the state’s voters legalized cannabis in 2012, new survey data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows this. The survey was based on a random sample of 17,000 middle and high school students in Colorado. Levels of teen use in Colorado have not increased since it ended cannabis prohibition, and they are lower than the national average.
California where medical cannabis has been legal for many years in an unregulated environment and now has been legalized with the passage of AUMA , cannabis use there in teens has also remained less prevalent than the years before the cannabis had been made legal according to results from the 13th Biennial California Student Survey.
Studies like these continue to debunk the theory that making medical cannabis legal and the legalization of commercial cannabis for adults will result in more teen use. Another study published in The Lancet Psychiatry showed no significant difference in adolescent cannabis use in the states with medical cannabis laws. This exhaustive study using over 24 years of data from over a million teenagers in 48 states found no evidence that legalized medical cannabis led to teenagers using cannabis more.
Cannabis has been the consistently most available drug since 1975 where 81% of teens said they could get it, moving up to 90% now. However, being about to get it and wanting to use it are two different things. In fact, states with legal cannabis are seeing a decline in all types of illicit drugs abused by teens – maybe this is a new component to the entourage effect.