NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH (NIH) TEENAGE DRUG USE STUDY

-----Illicit drug use among teenagers has continued at high rates, largely due to the
popularity of marijuana. Marijuana use by adolescents declined from the late 1990s until the mid-to-late 2000s, but has been on the increase since then. In 2012, 6.5 percent of 8th graders, 17.0 percent of 10th graders, and 22.9 percent of 12th graders used marijuana in the past month—an increase among 10th and 12th graders from 14.2 percent, and 18.8 percent in 2007. Daily use has also increased; 6.5 percent of 12th graders now use marijuana every day, compared to 5.1 percent in the 2007.

-----Rising marijuana use reflects changing perceptions and attitudes. Historically,
as perception of risks goes down, use goes up. Young people are showing
decreased perception that marijuana is dangerous. The growing perception of
marijuana as a safe drug may reflect recent public discussions over medical
marijuana and marijuana legalization.

-----Synthetic marijuana is a new and major concern. Also known as Spice or K2, synthetic marijuana refers to herbal mixtures laced with synthetic cannabinoids, chemicals that act in the brain similarly to THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana. These mixtures could be obtained legally until recently and are still wrongly perceived as a safe alternative to marijuana.  Synthetic marijuana was added to the MTF survey in 2011. In that year, 11.4
percent of 12th graders—one in nine—reported using it in the past year. This year 4.4 percent of 8th graders, 8.8 percent of 10th graders, and 11.3 percent of 12th graders reported past-year use.

-----Non-medical use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines remains a significant part of the teen drug problem. In 2012, 14.8 percent of high-school seniors used a prescription drug non-medically in the past year.  Data for specific drugs show that the most commonly abused prescription drugs by teens are the stimulant Adderall and the pain reliever Vicodin.