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New Study Shows Downward Trend In Teen Substance Use

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A new study released this fall by the Department of Health and Human Services reveals encouraging numbers for teen substance use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

Teen Substance Use Changes Over The Last Decade

From 2002 to 2013, declines were seen across the board in terms of substance use among teens. As the Washington Post reports, the most drastic change was seen in regular tobacco use and prescription painkillers, which each saw decreases of almost 50%.

Though not as dramatic, teen alcohol use dropped as well. In 2002, 17.6% of teens (ages 12 to 17) reportedly used alcohol on a regular basis (“regular basis” meaning at least monthly), a figure that dropped to 11.6% by 2013. And, despite swirling controversy and debate over the legality of marijuana and its implications for more widespread use, it seems teen interest in pot has remained relatively low, without drastic incline or decline, remaining at just under 10% over the same period. Carnegie Mellon researcher Jonathan Caulkins says that there is a strong link between tobacco and marijuana use in adolescents; he suggests that the sharp drop-off in tobacco use could also be keeping the marijuana statistics low as well.

“Exciting” Statistics

In the wake of an opiate addiction problem so widespread it’s being dubbed an “epidemic,” numbers that show a decline of any substance abuse is certainly inspiring – especially when it comes to our nation’s youth.

Peter Delany, director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) called the numbers “exciting,” pointing to significant decreases, even as recently as 2009. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was equally encouraged by the survey’s statistics, and said it was pleased to know that efforts are working.

“We’re especially heartened by the decrease in new initiates of prescription drug misuse,” said ONDCP spokeswoman Cameron Hardesty. (“New initiates” refers to first time users.) She went on to point to the Administration’s work to curb such use, saying the decline in teen use aligned with their prevention efforts.

Getting Help When It’s Needed

The collective efforts of anti-addiction groups, government organizations, and nonprofit campaigns are working, and it’s definitely nice to hear some good in the news these days. But the battle is far from over. At any age, addiction can be a severe, debilitating disease. If you are suffering from addiction, or have a loved one who is, The Watershed can help. We’re here 24/7: 1-800-861-1768.

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