Major Findings

One dramatic finding that emerged from the Monitoring the Future surveys was the decrease between about 1980 and 1992 in young Americans involved in the use of illicit drugs.

Illicit Drugs. Annual use of any illicit drug (that is, any use in the past twelve months) peaked among high school seniors in 1979, when more than half (54%) of all high school seniors reported having used such a drug. This peak occurred following a rise in the late 1970s—from 45 percent in 1975, when the first reliable national data were collected. By 1992, the proportion had fallen to 27 percent, half of the peak rate.

The statistics for lifetime prevalence are also dramatic. In the peak year of 1981, 66 percent of the graduating class reported having used an illicit drug at some point in their lifetime. By 1992, that percentage was down by about one third, to 41 percent.

Unfortunately, a second dramatic finding that has emerged from the Monitoring the Future surveys is an increase in the numbers of young Americans involved in the use of illicit drugs during the 1990s. After reaching a low of 27 percent in 1992, annual use among seniors was back up to 42 percent in 1999. Lifetime use was back to 55 percent.

Increases were particularly sharp among the eighth and tenth graders. No data are available before 1991, so longer term trends are not so clear. However, it is clear that there were significant increases in the 1990s. Among eighth graders in 1991, 11 percent had used an illicit drug in the past twelve months; that figure increased to 21 percent by 1999 (and actually peaked in 1996 at 24%). Similarly, among tenth graders, annual use increased from 21 percent in 1991 to 36 percent (and peaked at 39% in 1997).

Among the various illicit drugs, marijuana is the most prevalent. The use of marijuana, as indicated by its annual prevalence, peaked among high school seniors in 1979, when a majority (51%) reported that they had used it in the past twelve months, and it steadily declined after that, reaching a low of 22 percent in 1992. The annual preva lence, thus cut by more than half, declined from one in two seniors in the class of 1979 to less than one in four seniors in the class of 1992. However, by 1999 the figure was back to 38 percent, so that well over one in three seniors had used marijuana in the past twelve months.

A particularly striking trend in marijuana use occurred between 1975 and 1978, when the proportion of seniors who reported using marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis in the past thirty days increased from 6 percent to an unprecedented 10.7 percent. This figure subsequently came down by more than 80 percent and stood at 2 percent in 1992; by 1999 it was back to 6 percent, exactly where it was in 1975.

Among eighth graders, annual marijuana use increased from 6.2 percent in 1991 to 17 percent in 1999 (peaking at 18% in 1996). Among tenth graders, annual marijuana use almost doubled between 1991 and 1999, from 17 percent to 32 percent (peaking at 35% in 1997).

Never as common as marijuana, cocaine became the drug on which the most attention was focused during the mid-1980s, when the national concern about the drug epidemic was at its highest level. The concern with cocaine was well founded because its use, unlike that of marijuana, had not begun to decline in the very early 1980s. As with marijuana, the daily use of cocaine had increased substantially between 1975 and 1979: Annual prevalence doubled from 5.6 percent to 12.0 percent. Several years followed during which there was little change, with annual prevalence reaching a peak of 13 percent in both 1985 and 1986. A period of decline then ensued during which annual use declined to 3.1 percent in 1992; this was the lowest value recorded since reliable data had begun to be collected in 1975. Like marijuana, however, use increased in the 1990s, and by 1999 annual cocaine among seniors had doubled, reaching 6.2 percent.

These data refer to the use of any form of cocaine, including crack cocaine. Crack cocaine first appeared in the early 1980s and became a significant factor among the illicit drugs in the mid-1980s. It was first assessed on a national basis in 1986, and its annual prevalence among high school seniors at that time was recorded at a disturbingly high 4.1 percent. That first reading turned out to be a peak level, and the use of crack cocaine declined thereafter, reaching 1.5 percent

TABLE 1

Trends in Annual Prevalence of Use of Various Drugs among Eighth, Tenth, and Twelfth Graders

(Percent who used in 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985

Any Illicit Drug"

12th Grade 45.0 48.1 51.1 53.8 54.2 53.1 52.1 49.4 47.4 45.8 46.3

Any Illicit Drug

Other Than Marijuana

12th Grade 26.2 25.4 26.0 27.1 28.2 30.4 34.0 30.1 28.4 28.0 27.4

Marijuana/ Hashish

8th Grade ----------10th Grade ----------12th Grade 40.0 44.5 47.6 50.2 50.8 48.8 46.1 44.3 42.3 40.0 40.6

Inhalants

8th Grade ----------10th Grade ----------12th Grade - 3.0 3.7 4.1 5.4 4.6 4.1 4.5 4.3 5.1 5.7

8th Grade ----------10th Grade ----------12th Grade 7.2 6.4 5.5 6.3 6.6 6.5 6.5 6.1 5.4 4.7 4.4

MDMA (Ecstasy)

8th Grade ----------10th Grade ----------12th Grade ----------Cocaine

8th Grade ----------10th Grade ----------12th Grade 5.6 6.0 7.2 9.0 12.0 12.3 12.4 11.5 11.4 11.6 13.1

Crack Cocaine

NOTE: See Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman (2000) for more specific details about measures.

aUse of "any illicit drugs" includes any use of marijuana, hallucinogens, cocaine, or heroin, or any non-medical use of other opiates, amphetamines, barbiturates, or tranquilizers.

in 1992. Its lifetime prevalence reached a peak of 5.4 percent among the high school class of 1987 but declined to 2.6 percent by 1992. Use of crack cocaine increased during the 1990s, reaching a lifetime prevalence of 4.6 percent in 1999, and an annual prevalence of 2.7 percent. These figures are still below the peak levels reached in the mid 1980s.

Similar trends were observed among eighth and tenth graders in the 1990s, though at lower absolute levels.

Although not necessarily illicit drugs, inhalants are sometimes used illicitly for the purpose of getting high. This particular behavior is generally more often seen among younger students rather than among high school seniors. In 1999, for exam

last twelve months)

1986 1987 1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

11.3

12.9

15.1

18.5

21.4

23.6

22.1

21.0

20.5

-

-

-

-

-

21.4

20.4

24.7

30.0

33.3

37.5

38.5

35.0

35.9

44.3

41.7

38.5

35.4

32.5

29.4

27.1

31.0

35.8

39.0

40.2

42.4

41.4

42.1

8.4

9.3

10.4

11.3

12.6

13.1

11.8

11.0

10.5

-

-

-

-

-

12.2

12.3

13.9

15.2

17.5

18.4

18.2

16.6

16.7

25.9

24.1

21.1

20.0

17.9

16.2

14.9

17.1

18.0

19.4

19.8

20.7

20.2

20.7

6.2

7.2

9.2

13.0

15.8

18.3

17.7

16.9

16.5

-

-

-

-

-

16.5

15.2

19.2

25.2

28.7

33.6

34.8

31.1

32.1

38.8

36.3

33.1

29.6

27.0

23.9

21.9

26.0

30.7

34.7

35.8

38.5

37.5

37.8

-

-

-

-

-

9.0

9.5

11.0

11.7

12.8

12.2

11.8

11.1

10.3

-

-

-

-

-

7.1

7.5

8.4

9.1

9.6

9.5

8.7

8.0

7.2

6.1

6.9

6.5

5.9

6.9

6.6

6.2

7.0

7.7

8.0

7.6

6.7

6.2

5.6

1.7

2.1

2.3

2.4

3.2

3.5

3.2

2.8

2.4

-

-

-

-

-

3.7

4.0

4.2

5.2

6.5

6.9

6.7

5.9

6.0

4.5

5.2

4.8

4.9

5.4

5.2

5.6

6.8

6.9

8.4

8.8

8.4

7.6

8.1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

2.3

2.3

1.8

1.7

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

4.6

3.9

3.3

4.4

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

4.6

4.0

3.6

5.6

-

-

-

-

-

1.1

1.5

1.7

2.1

2.6

3.0

2.8

3.1

2.7

-

-

-

-

-

2.2

1.9

2.1

2.8

3.5

4.2

4.7

4.7

4.9

12.7

10.3

7.9

6.5

5.3

3.5

3.1

3.3

3.6

4.0

4.9

5.5

5.7

6.2

-

-

-

-

-

0.7

0.9

1.0

1.3

1.6

1.8

1.7

2.1

1.8

-

-

-

-

-

0.9

0.9

1.1

1.4

1.8

2.1

2.2

2.5

2.4

4.1

3.9

3.1

3.1

1.9

1.5

1.5

1.5

1.9

2.1

2.1

2.4

2.5

2.7

ple, 5.6 percent of twelfth graders reported using inhalants to get high at least once in the past twelve months, compared to 7.2 percent of tenth graders, and 10.3 percent of eighth graders.

The longer term trend in the use of inhalants was slightly upward from its lowest level of 3.0 percent in 1976 (when it was first assessed), to a peak level of 8.0 percent in 1995 (before declining to 5.6% in

1999). Thus, the use of this class of substance, unlike the use of illicit drugs in general, did not show the general decline from 1980 to 1992. Among eighth and tenth graders, annual use levels are not very different between 1991 and 1999: for eighth graders the respective values were 9 percent and 10.3 percent, and for tenth graders they were 7.1 percent and 7.2 percent.

TABLE 1 (Continued)

Trends in Annual Prevalence of Use of Various Drugs among Eighth, Tenth, and Twelfth Graders

(Percent who used in

1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985

Heroin 8th Grade 10th Grade 12th Grade

Other Narcotics 8th Grade 10th Grade 12th Grade

Amphetamines1 8th Grade 10th Grade 12th Grade

Barbiturates 8th Grade 10th Grade 12th Grade

Tranquilizers 8th Grade 10th Grade 12th Grade

Alcohol0 Any use 8th Grade 10th Grade 12th Grade

16.2 15.8 16.3 17.1 18.3 20.8 26.0 20.3 17.9 17.7 15.8

NOTE: See Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman (2000) for more specific details about measures. bIn 1982, the question about amphetamine use was revised; the prevalence rate declined as a result. cIn 1993, the question about alcohol use was revised; the prevalence rate declined as a result.

Hallucinogens are the other major class of illicit (or illicitly used) substances that did not evidence declines in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) in particular is a very significant exception; its use hardly changed among high school seniors, remaining at an annual prevalence of about 5 percent from 1987 to 1991 after a period of some decline. Like marijuana however, there was an increase in the 1990s, reaching 8.8 percent in 1996, the highest value ever recorded. (The lowest recorded value was 4.4 percent in 1985). By 1999, use had declined only slightly, to 8.1 percent.

Very similar patterns of change were evident among eighth and tenth graders in the 1990s, albeit at lower levels.

Substances that generally showed declines during the period from the 1970s to the early 1990s include heroin, opiates other than heroin, amphetamines, barbiturates, and tranquilizers. All of these substances also showed an increase during the mid-1990s.

Thus, five classes of illicitly used drugs had a particularly important impact on appreciable proportions of young Americans: Marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, and inhalants. In 1999, they showed annual prevalence rates among high school seniors of 38 percent, 6 percent, 10 percent, 8 percent, and 6 percent, respectively. Among eighth graders, the respective figures were 17 percent, 3 percent, 7 percent, 2 percent, and 10 percent.

In the late 1990s, some ''club drugs'' appeared on the drug scene. One in particular, MDMA, or

last twelve months)

1986 1987

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

0.7

0.7

0.7

1.2

1.4

1.6

1.3

1.3

1.4

- -

-

-

-

0.5

0.6

0.7

0.9

1.1

1.2

1.4

1.4

1.4

0.5 0.5

0.5

0.6

0.5

0.4

0.6

0.5

0.6

1.1

1.0

1.2

1.0

1.1

5.2 5.3

4.6

4.4

4.5

3.5

3.3

3.6

3.8

4.7

5.4

6.2

6.3

6.7

- -

-

-

-

6.2

6.5

7.2

7.9

8.7

9.1

8.1

7.2

6.9

- -

-

-

-

8.2

8.2

9.6

10.2

11.9

12.4

12.1

10.7

10.4

13.4 12.2

10.9

10.8

9.1

8.2

7.1

8.4

9.4

9.3

9.5

10.2

10.1

10.2

4.2 3.6

3.2

3.3

3.4

3.4

2.8

3.4

4.1

4.7

4.9

5.1

5.5

5.8

1.8

2.0

2.1

2.4

2.7

3.3

2.9

2.6

2.5

- -

-

-

-

3.2

3.5

3.3

3.3

4.0

4.6

4.9

5.1

5.4

5.8 5.5

4.8

3.8

3.5

3.6

2.8

3.5

3.7

4.4

4.6

4.7

5.5

5.8

54.0

53.7

48.5

46.8

45.3

46.5

45.5

43.7

43.5

- -

-

-

-

72.3

70.2

66.4

63.9

63.5

65.0

65.2

62.7

63.7

84.5 85.7 85.3 82.7 80.6 77.7 76.8 74.4 73.0 73.7 72.5 74.8 74.3 73.8

84.5 85.7 85.3 82.7 80.6 77.7 76.8 74.4 73.0 73.7 72.5 74.8 74.3 73.8

"ecstasy," has shown substantial increases, reaching 5.6 percent annual prevalence among seniors in 1999. The corresponding figures for eighth and tenth graders are 1.7 percent and 4.4 percent.

Alcohol and Tobacco. The history of the use of the major licit drugs—alcohol and tobacco—is rather different than that of the use of most illicit drugs. One significant difference was the extent of the use of alcohol and tobacco. The daily use of cigarettes was far greater than the daily use of any other substance. In 1999, more than one in five (23%) high school seniors had smoked one or more cigarettes per day in the past thirty days. Even among eighth graders, one in twelve was a daily cigarette smoker (8%).

About one in thirty (3.4%) seniors had drunk alcohol daily or almost daily. All other drugs were used on a daily basis by 0.3 percent or less of seniors. Although the daily use of alcohol was relatively infrequent among high school seniors, episodic or periodic drinking was more frequent. In 1999, nearly one third (31%) of seniors reported they had had five or more drinks in a row at least once during the past two weeks. (Drinking five or more drinks ''in a row'' is likely enough to render the average teenager intoxicated.) This behavior showed some declines in the late 1980s and early 1990s. From 1975 through 1988, the figure for such drinking had been between 35 percent and 41 percent, or consistently more than one in three high school seniors. Between 1988 and 1991, it declined to 30 percent, which represented an encouraging downward trend, although the absolute level remained impressively high; the trend in the 1990s

TABLE 2

Trends in Prevalence of Daily Use of Marijuana, Alcohol, and Cigarettes among Eighth, Tenth, and Twelfth

TABLE 2

Trends in Prevalence of Daily Use of Marijuana, Alcohol, and Cigarettes among Eighth, Tenth, and Twelfth

1975

1976

1977

1978

1979

1980

1981

1983 1984 1985

Marijuana/Hashish Any daily use 8th Grade

10th Grade

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

- - -

12th Grade

6.0

8.2

9.1

10.7

10.3

9.1

7.0

6.3

5.5 5.0 4.9

Alcohol"

Any daily use 8th Grade

10th Grade

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

- - -

12th Grade

5.7

5.6

6.1

5.7

6.9

6.0

6.0

5.7

5.5 4.8 5.0

5+ drinks in a row

in last 2 weeks

8th Grade

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

- - -

10th Grade

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

- - -

12th Grade

36.8

37.1

39.4

40.3

41.2

41.2

41.4

40.5

40.8 38.7 36.7

Cigarettes

Any daily use 8th Grade

10th Grade

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

- - -

12th Grade

26.9

28.8

28.8

27.5

25.4

21.3

20.3

21.1

21.2 18.7 19.5

1/2 pack+/day 8th Grade

10th Grade

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

- - -

12th Grade

17.9

19.2

19.4

18.8

16.5

14.3

13.5

14.2

13.8 12.3 12.5

NOTE: See Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman (2000) for more specific details about measures. aIn 1993, the question about alcohol use was revised slightly.

was not so encouraging, with the level in 1999 slightly higher, at 31 percent.

The trends in the 1990s for eighth and tenth graders are also not encouraging: 1999 levels of heavy drinking are slightly higher than they were in 1991. For example, 23 percent of 1991 tenth graders reported having had five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks, compared to 26 percent of 1999 tenth graders.

Among seniors, daily use of cigarettes peaked in 1977, when 29 percent of high school seniors smoked daily. By 1992, this had declined to 17 percent, but most of the decline had occurred by 1981, when the figure stood at 20 percent. Between 1992 and 1999, the figure increased substantially, to 23 percent. A measure of heavier smoking, the percent of high school seniors who smoked a half pack or more of cigarettes per day, showed a simi lar trend; it peaked in 1977 at 19 percent, declined to 14 percent by 1981, was down to 10 percent in 1992, but was back to 13 percent in 1999. Thus, although the 1980s showed some declines in cigarette smoking among young Americans, these declines were far more modest than one might have expected. Given the large increases in antismoking legislation, restrictions as to where smoking is allowed, and the general spread of antismoking attitudes, the declines were surprisingly small, and have eroded some in the 1990s.

The upward trend in cigarette use during the 1990s was strikingly present among eighth and tenth graders. Monthly use increased among both grades by about 50 percent from 1991 to 1996 (from 14 percent to 21 percent among eighth graders, and from 21 percent to 30 percent among tenth graders), before moderating slightly after that.

Graders in last thirty days)

1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999

-

-

-

-

-

0.2

0.2

0.4

0.7

0.8

1.5

1.1

1.1

1.4

-

-

-

-

-

0.8

0.8

1.0

2.2

2.8

3.5

3.7

3.6

3.8

4.0

3.3

2.7

2.9

2.2

2.0

1.9

2.4

3.6

4.6

4.9

5.8

5.6

6.0

0.5

0.6

0.9

1.0

0.7

1.0

0.8

0.9

1.0

-

-

-

-

-

1.3

1.2

1.7

1.7

1.7

1.6

1.7

1.9

1.9

4.8

4.8

4.2

4.2

3.7

3.6

3.4

3.0

2.9

3.5

3.7

3.9

3.9

3.4

12.9

13.4

13.5

14.5

14.5

15.6

14.5

13.7

15.2

-

-

-

-

-

22.9

21.1

23.0

23.6

24.0

24.8

25.1

24.3

25.6

36.8

37.5

34.7

33.0

32.2

29.8

27.9

27.5

28.2

29.8

30.2

31.3

31.5

30.8

22.2

24.6

15.8

22.4

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