Research released Thursday shows about 28% of high school seniors have used an electronic vaping device within the past year, although many admit they don’t know what is in the device they are using.
The data comes from the Monitoring the Future survey, reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and researchers from the University of Michigan, a poll of students in eighth, 10th and 12th grade nationwide.
Of the 12th graders surveyed, 51.8% said “just flavoring” was in the vaping device they used, while 32.8% reported the presence of nicotine and 11.1% said marijuana.
“It is worrisome because nicotine is an addictive drug and studies have started to emerge showing that kids who start vaping nicotine are at a much greater risk in subsequent years of starting to smoke cigarettes,” NIDA Director Nora Volkow, MD, said on a conference call Thursday. “There is concern that many of the advances we’ve had through prevention campaigns may be lost and we will start to get increases in the use of nicotine.”
Outside of the vaping statistics, Volkow said she was mostly encouraged by the survey’s findings. Misuse of opioid pain medications is down from past years, with misuse of Vicodin at 2% of respondents, its lowest point since 2002. Overall pain medication misuse (classified as narcotics other than heroin) by 12th graders is 4.2%, down from a peak of 9.5% in 2004.
One explanation for the drop in prescription pain medication misuse is a perceived lack of access to such drugs. Just 35.8% of students surveyed said prescription drugs were easily available, down from 54% in 2010.
Other notable takeaways:
- Rates of traditional cigarette smoking among teens are at their lowest point in the history of the survey, which dates back to 1975. Past-month use of cigarettes by 12th graders has dropped from 13.6% in 2014 to 9.7% in the 2017 survey.
- Past-year marijuana use is slightly up overall among all grades surveyed. High school seniors in states with medical marijuana laws were shown to be more likely to have used marijuana either through a vaping device or as an edible in comparison to states without such laws.
- While past-year use of inhalants by eighth graders was up for a second straight year at 4.7%, it remains far below its peak of 12.8% in 1995.
- Binge drinking, defined as having consumed five or more drinks consecutively within the past two weeks, has leveled off in recent years across all three grades surveyed and is far below its peak in each grade. Of students in the 12th grade, 16.6% say they have engaged in binge drinking (31.5% in 1995), while 9.8% of 10th graders (24.1% in 2000), and 3.7% of eighth graders (13.3% in 1996) reported binge drinking.
“Overall, we’re excited about these findings,” Volkow said. “The adolescent brain is rapidly developing, and the use of drugs in these teenagers is a predictor of adverse outcomes, including addiction.”