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A surprising (and hopeful!) finding about teenage drug and alcohol use during the pandemic
A new survey suggests use by American adolescents plunged in 2021 - contrary to the increase in overdose deaths.
Eighth graders and high school students reported far lower levels of drug use in 2021 than previous years, a new national survey finds.
Alcohol, cannabis, and nicotine use all declined sharply, even as most schools remained closed and other measures of mental health declined. So did the use of harder drugs such as cocaine and LSD.
In perhaps the most surprising finding, cannabis use by eighth and tenth graders fell almost 40 percent. Only 17 percent of tenth graders used cannabis in 2021, compared to 28 percent the previous year.
The findings contradict both anecdotal reports and the fact that American drug overdose deaths rose almost 30 percent in 2020 and have continued to soar this year. They will top 100,000 in 2021, mainly from opioids - five times their level two decades ago.
But the survey, called Monitoring the Future, is well-respected and drug researchers generally view it as at least directionally accurate. The University of Michigan has conducted it for almost 50 years for the National Institutes of Health.
The reason for the decline is unclear. With schools closed, students may simply have had less access to drugs - particularly more expensive and harder-to-find drugs such as cocaine. Using at home may also have been difficult.
But broader societal changes may also have played a role. Some students may have also seen for themselves the severe mental health problems that heavy early cannabis use can cause.
In any case, after endless bad news about teens and mental health, this survey offers a ray of hope.
CORRECTED: The survey is from 2021, not 2020. (But it is from the spring - so many schools were still online, especially in blue states.)