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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2019

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 resulting from chronic use.92, 93 There is an increasing perception that marijuana is safe with expanding legalization. In the past decade, the percentage of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders that perceive smoking marijuana occasionally or regularly as harmful has significantly declined. 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 (also known as Ecstasy), can affect brain chemistry and may result in problems with memory and learning new information.94 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, 1980–2018
Indicator BEH3.A: Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who reported using illicit drugs in the past 30 days by grade, 1980–2018

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, 1980–2018
Indicator BEH3.B: Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who reported smoking marijuana in the past 30 days by grade, 1980–2018

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

  • From 2017 to 2018, reports of illicit drug use in the past 30 days remained unchanged among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, with 7%, 18%, and 24% reporting use, respectively.
  • In 2018, illicit drug use in the past 30 days was reported by 7% each of male and female 8th graders, by 19% of male and 18% of female 10th graders, and by 26% of male and 21% of female 12th graders.
  • The percentages of past month illicit drug use reported in 2018, increased significantly compared with those reported in 1992, when 7% of 8th graders, 11% of 10th graders, and 14% of 12th graders reported past month illicit drug use.
  • Marijuana use in the past 30 days remained unchanged from 2016–2017 and was reported by 6% of 8th graders, 17% of 10th graders, and 22% of 12th graders in 2018.










table icon BEH3A HTML Table | BEH3B HTML Table

92 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.

93 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), 522–527.

94 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.