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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

Illicit Drug Use

Drug use by adolescents can have immediate as well as long-term health and social consequences. Marijuana use may have a wide range of effects, both physical and mental, including cognitive risks.90, 91 It also is the main driver of illicit drug use among teens, with an estimated one in five high school seniors reporting use in the past month. Other drug use, such as the misuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, can increase the risk of adverse health effects, including overdose—especially when taken in combination with other drugs or alcohol. Hallucinogens, such as MDMA, can affect brain chemistry and may result in problems with memory and learning new information.92 Any illicit drug use during adolescence is a risk-taking behavior that has potentially serious negative consequences.

Indicator BEH3.A: Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who reported using illicit drugs in the past 30 days by grade, 2000–2019
Indicator BEH3.A: Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who reported using illicit drugs in the past 30 days by grade, 2000–2019

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 is excluded because younger respondents appear to overreport 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 errors. See http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/data/09data.html#2009data-drugs.

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

Indicator BEH3.B: Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who reported smoking marijuana in the past 30 days by grade, 2000–2019
Indicator BEH3.B: Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who reported smoking marijuana in the past 30 days by grade, 2000–2019

NOTE: Data for 10th graders for 2008 are not included because estimates are considered to be unreliable due to sampling errors. See http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/data/09data.html#2009data-drugs.

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

  • In 2019, illicit drug use in the past 30 days was reported by 9% of 8th graders, 20% of 10th graders, and 24%of 12th graders. These estimates were not significantly different from 2018.
  • In 2019, illicit drug use in the past 30 days was reported by 7% of male and 10% of female 8th graders, by 20%each of male and female 10th graders, and by 25% of male and 22% of female 12th graders.
  • Marijuana use in the past 30 days was reported by 7%of 8th graders, 18% of 10th graders, and 22% of 12th graders in 2019. Rates remained unchanged between 2018 and 2019.





table icon BEH3A HTML Table | BEH3B HTML Table

90 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Marijuana DrugFacts. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

91 Pope, H. G., Jr., & Yurgelun-Todd, D. (1996). The residual cognitive effects of heavy marijuana use in college students. Journal of the American Medical Association, 275(7), 521–527.

92 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). From the director. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/director