Youth Risk Behavior Survey Shows Improvements

(Photos: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photos: Pexels, Creative Commons)

According to a biannual report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high school students across the country are continuing to lose interest in having sex, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes or marijuana despite the pot laws relaxing in several states.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which has been conducted since 1991, showed a decrease in tobacco and alcohol use from 2011 to 2013, resulting in the lowest-ever percentage of students reporting having tried either one.  In fact, cigarette usage was found to be at its lowest level in 24 years with just 11% in 2015, a decrease from 28% in 1991.

While a decrease was also seen in lifetime marijuana use among students since 1997, no significant year-to-year change was noted, reports Steven Nelson for US News.

In addition, a plateau was noted among students who had sex between 2001 and 2013.   A long-term decline was found in 1991, with the 46.8% figure in 2013 being among the lowest recorded.

A separate survey of over 50,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Monitoring the Future,” found similar results, stating that teens are increasingly using less alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs such as synthetic marijuana and prescription painkillers.  Some drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, were noted to be at their lowest usage since the survey began in 1975.  The majority of 12th grade survey participants, 95.3%, reported disapproval of using heroin occasionally.

At the same time, marijuana use was found to have plateaued among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders across the last five years, even as the perceived risks involved have decreased.  Just 31.9% of participants felt regular use of the drug puts the user at an increased risk in comparison with 78.6% in 1991.  However, disapproval of regular smoking of the drug remained high at 70.7% among 12th graders, although this rate has seen a decline since 1992 when it was at 90.1%, writes Jared Keller for The Daily Beast.

Past-month marijuana usage was found to exceed cigarette usage among high school seniors, as 21.3% of seniors noted they had used marijuana within the past 30 days in comparison to 11.4% who said they had smoked a cigarette.

E-cigarette usage was also considered, with an increase in students in 8th and 10th grade who consider its regular usage to be harmful.  Students who use e-cigarettes were asked for the first time what they vaporized the last time they had used an e-cigarette.  Among high school seniors, 22.2% said they inhaled nicotine, 6.1% said marijuana or hash oil, and 6.3% said they did not know.  More than 60% reported inhaling only flavoring.

While the nicotine in e-cigarettes is vaporized and inhaled, the health impact of the devices is still unknown and is currently seen as an introductory product for young people who go on to use other tobacco products.

Meanwhile, research suggests that children of parents who show symptoms of addiction are more likely to become addicted themselves as a result of behavior modeling as well as lax oversight.  According to a recent longitudinal study of adolescents between 1994 and 2008, parents with permissive attitudes in turn had children who were more likely to engage in self-destructive activities.  In comparison, children with authoritative parents or who had friends with this type of parent were 40% less likely to drink to become drunk, 38% less likely to binge drink, 39% less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 43% less likely to use marijuana.