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SAMHSA News - January/February 2008, Volume 16, Number 1

Decline in Illicit Drug Use by 8th Graders

The Nation’s 8th graders took center stage in this year’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, showing a significant decline in both smoking and illicit drug use in the past year, part of a downward trend for all measured age groups in the last decade.

In addition, 8th graders showed a substantial long-term decline in past-year alcohol use, down to 31.8 percent from its recent peak of 46.8 percent in 1994.

The Monitoring the Future project—now in its 33rd year—is a series of independent surveys of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health.

The 2007 results appear to reflect an ongoing cultural shift among teens and their attitudes about smoking and substance abuse. Lifetime, past-month, and daily smoking among 8th graders has dropped considerably in the past year, and daily cigarette smoking among 8th graders dropped from 4 percent to 3 percent, down from its 10.4 percent peak in 1996.

Similarly, annual prevalence of marijuana use by 8th graders fell from 11.7 percent in 2006 to 10.3 percent in 2007, and is down from its 1996 peak of 18.3 percent.

The survey also showed that while past-year use of marijuana declined among 8th graders in 2007, it remained steady among 10th and 12th graders. However, in the past decade, there has been a slow downward trend in overall illicit drug use driven by gradual declines in marijuana smoking.

Past-year marijuana use among 10th graders sits at 24.6 percent after it peaked in 1997 at 34.8 percent. Similarly, past-year marijuana use among 12th graders registers at 31.7 percent after a 1997 peak of 38.5 percent.

The survey results are not without concerns, however. Prescription drug abuse remains high with virtually no significant drop in nonmedical use of most individual prescription drugs. Vicodin® remains one of the most commonly abused drugs among 12th graders: 1 in 10 reported nonmedical use in the past year.

Information on the Monitoring the Future Survey is online at

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