If there was any recent story that perfectly summed up the changing nature of drug use among America’s young adults – and the associated need for drug addiction programs in North Carolina like Red Oak Recovery to adapt – it was surely the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) most recent annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey.
Released in April, the publication observed, for the 16th consecutive year, a decline in the percentage of grade 8, 10 and 12 students in America who reported having ever used alcohol. There was also a drop – for the 17th year in a row – in the percentage of survey respondents who claimed to have ever smoked cigarettes. It means that lifetime smoking prevalence among teens is now less than half of its mid-’90s peak.
However, not all of the survey findings made pleasant reading for the coordinators of drug addiction programs in North Carolina and other areas of the United States. A 1.7 percentage point increase was recorded in the portion of students stating that they had used an illegal drug during their lifetime, from 2012’s 34.1 percent to 35.8 percent last year.
Marijuana retained its position from years past as the most frequently used illegal drug, with nearly one third – 32 percent – of those surveyed claiming to have used it during their lifetime. A 16.7 percent rise was observed in the prevalence of past-year student marijuana use, from 21.5 percent to 25.8 percent, in just five years. The level of recorded daily use of marijuana among students last year – 3.7 percent – matched the highest seen in 22 years of monitoring.
However, what will especially worry those helming drug addiction programs in North Carolina is a steady decline among students in the perceived risk of marijuana use, accompanied by the increase in use of the drug. The MTF’s principal investigator and Angus Campbell Collegiate Research Professor at the University of Michigan, Dr. Lloyd Johnston, expressed concern that such a lowered estimation of the drug’s risk could lead to further rises in marijuana use.
Dr. Johnston commented: “We’ve seen in various historical periods a strong correlation between changes in perceived risk and use of various drugs. We don’t have many leading indicators in the social sciences, so we take this correlation seriously.”
Nonetheless, there was better news as far as other drugs were concerned. Past-year use of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin all slightly declined. The survey also found decreased levels of reported use of such drugs as synthetic marijuana – otherwise known as ‘K2’ or ‘Spice’ – and bath salts, which have both been associated with serious health concerns.
The survey presents a mixed picture which certainly signifies that the work of such drug addiction programs in North Carolina as Red Oak Recovery is far from done.