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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

Illicit Drug Use

Drug use by adolescents can have immediate as well as long-term health and social consequences. Marijuana use poses both cognitive and health risks, particularly damage to pulmonary functions as a result of chronic use.91,92 The abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs can be addictive and put abusers at risk for other adverse health effects, including overdose—especially when taken along with other drugs or alcohol. Hallucinogens can affect brain chemistry and result in problems with memory and learning new information.93 As is the case with alcohol use and smoking, illicit drug use is a risk-taking behavior that has potentially serious negative consequences.

Indicator Beh3: Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who reported using illicit drugs in the past 30 days by grade, 1980–2012
Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who reported using illicit drugs in the past 30 days by grade, 1980–2012

NOTE: Use of "illicit drugs" includes any use of marijuana, LSD, other hallucinogens, crack, other cocaine, or heroin, or any use of other narcotics, amphetamines, barbiturates, or tranquilizers not under a doctor's orders. For 8th- and 10th-graders, the use of other narcotics and barbiturates has been excluded because these younger respondents appear to over report use (perhaps because they include the use of nonprescription drugs in their responses). Data for 10th-graders for 2008 are not included because estimates are considered to be unreliable due to sampling error. See http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/data/09data.html#2009data-drugs.

SOURCE: National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monitoring the Future Survey.

  • Illicit drug use in the past 30 days remained stable at 8 percent among 8th-grade students, 19 percent among 10th-grade students, and 25 percent among 12th-grade students from 2011 to 2012.
  • Eight percent of male and 7 percent of female 8th-grade students reported using illicit drugs in the past 30 days in 2012. Among 10th-grade students, the percentages were 21 percent for males and 16 percent for females. Among 12th-grade students, the percentages were 29 percent for males and 21 percent for females.
  • Reports of illicit drug use in the past 30 days have declined among 8th- and 10th-grade students from peaks of 15 percent and 23 percent, respectively, in 1996.

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91 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2004). Marijuana: Facts parents need to know (NIH Publication No. 04-4036). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

92 Pope, H.G., Jr., and Yurgelun-Todd, D. (1996). The residual cognitive effects of heavy marijuana use in college students. Journal of the American Medical Association, 275(7).

93 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2001). Research Report Series: Hallucinogens and dissociative drugs (NIH Publication No. 01-4209). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.