BETHESDA, Md. — The National Institute on Drug Abuse last week released the 2012 Monitoring the Future survey, finding that 5.6% of high school seniors abused over-the-counter cough and cold medicines containing dextromethorphan, a rate that has held relatively steady over the past five years. Abuse of DXM products was reported to be 3% among eighth graders and 4.7% among tenth graders, bringing the overall average to under 5%.
"The results of this year’s Monitoring the Future survey do indicate there may be some decline, and our StopMedicineAbuse campaign remains committed to increasing parental awareness about this troubling teen behavior,” stated Scott Melville, president and CEO for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “Abuse of over-the-counter cough medicines often flies under parents’ radars, which is why the makers of these medicines will forge ahead in our efforts to educate parents about this abuse and encourage them to monitor their medicines and to talk to their teens about dangers of abusing all medicines, including OTC cough medicine," he said.
This year CHPA partnered with the Partnership at Drugfree.org to launch a social media campaign to influence teens directly. Using YouTube videos and a Facebook app, the campaign reaches teens who are likely triers looking for information on how to abuse DXM and conveys the health risks and social disapproval associated with OTC cough medicine abuse. "In the first five months, our content has been viewed over 750,000 times and shared over 32,000 times," Melville said.
The Monitoring the Future data revealed a mixed report regarding prescription drug abuse. Twelfth graders reported non–medical use of the opioid painkiller Vicodin at a past year rate of 7.5%. Since the survey started measuring its use in 2002, rates hovered near 10% until 2010, when the survey started reporting a modest decline. However, past year abuse of the stimulant Adderall, often prescribed to treat ADHD, has increased over the past few years to 7.6% among high school seniors, up from 5.4% in 2009. Accompanying this increased use is a decrease in the perceived harm associated with using the drug, which dropped nearly 6% in the past year — only 35% of 12th graders believe that using Adderall occasionally is risky.
The survey continued to show that most teens who abused prescription medications were getting them from family members and friends.
Cigarette smoking continued at its lowest levels among eighth, 10th and 12th graders, with dramatic long–term improvement. Significant declines were seen in lifetime use among eighth graders, down to 15.5% from last year's 18.4%, compared to nearly 50% at its peak in 1996. Significant declines were also seen in 10th grade lifetime use of cigarettes, down to 27.7% from 30.4% in 2011. Peak rates for 10th graders were seen in 1996 at 61.2%. For some indicators, including past month use in all three grades, cigarette smoking remains lower than marijuana use, a phenomenon that began a few years ago.
The survey also measures several other kinds of tobacco delivery products. For example, past year use of small cigars was reported at nearly 20% for 12th graders, with an 18.3% rate for hookah water pipes.
Abuse of synthetic marijuana (also known as K–2 or Spice) stayed stable in 2012 at just over 11% for past year use among 12th graders. While many of the ingredients in Spice have been banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, manufacturers attempt to evade these legal restrictions by substituting different chemicals in their mixtures. Another drug type - inhalants - continues a downward trend. As one of the drugs most commonly used by younger students, the survey showed a past year use rate of 6.2% among eighth graders, a significant drop in the last five years when the 2007 survey showed a rate of 8.3%.
For the first time, the Monitoring the Future survey measured teen use of the much publicized emerging family of drugs known as "bath salts," containing an amphetamine–like stimulant that is often sold in drug paraphernalia stores. The data showed a relative low use among 12th graders at 1.3%.
Monitoring the Future survey, an annual survey of eighth, 10th, and 12th–graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, was carried out in classrooms around the country earlier this year, under a grant from the NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Overall, 45,449 students from 395 public and private schools participated in this year's Monitoring the Future survey. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th–graders nationwide. Eighth and 10th graders were added to the survey in 1991. Survey participants generally report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year and past month.