It seems that every day we hear about someone who was a victim of a drug-related death. Sometimes even those of us who work in chemical dependency treatment throw up our hands and question the efficacy of treatment. However, some recent evidence shows that our interventions are working, particularly with adolescents.
I have excerpted some information from the Monitoring The Future survey of drug use that I find encouraging.
- The percentage of students reporting past-year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana continued to decline in 2014. It is at the lowest level in the history of the survey. 5.4% of 8th graders, 9.8 percent of 10th graders and 14.3% of 12th graders report such use now as compared with 12.6% of 8th graders, 18.4% of 10th graders and 21.6% of 12th graders 15 years ago.
- Marijuana use declined among 8th and 10th graders and remained unchanged among 12th graders as compared with statistics from 5 years ago despite changes in marijuana drug laws and its increased availability
- Alcohol use is also down. Daily alcohol use among 12th graders significantly decreased to 1.3% while binge drinking declined among 8th graders to 3.4%.
- Daily cigarette use by adolescents declined sharply – from 10.4% of 8th graders in 1996 to only .9% at the current time.
Now I am not saying that we don’t have a lot more work to do. The point, however, is that our efforts at educating young people about drug use are working.
Although I am skeptical about the whole “gateway drug” idea because I believe it oversimplifies a very complex problem, these statistics indicate that in all likelihood drug use in college and beyond will decrease if we maintain our emphasis on prevention during adolescence and early treatment.