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Home > Research Articles > High School and Youth Trends

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Saturday, February 09, 2002

2001 Monitoring the Future Study (MTF)*

Since 1975, the MTF has annually studied the extent of drug abuse among high school 12th graders. The survey was expanded in 1991 to include 8th and 10th graders. It is funded by NIDA and is conducted by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. The goal of the survey is to collect data on past month, past year, and lifetime drug use among students in these grade levels. This, the 27th annual study, was conducted during spring 2001.**

The 2001 MTF marks the fifth year in a row that illicit drug use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders remained stable or decreased in some cases. Since the 2000 MTF, notable decreases in cigarette smoking were observed for 8th and 10th graders in 2001. The survey also found that the rise in use of MDMA (ecstasy) in teenagers seen over the past 2 to 3 years slowed from 2000 to 2001 among students in all three grades. In addition, rates of heroin use decreased notably among 10th and 12th graders, and a gradual decline in use of inhalants continued in 2001 with a significant decrease occurring among 12th graders.

Perceived Risk of Harm, Disapproval, and Perceived Availability. In addition to surveying for use of drugs among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, MTF surveys for three attitudinal indicators related to drug use. These are perceived risk of harm in taking a drug, disapproval of others who take drugs, and perceived availability of drugs. These changes are from 2000 to 2001:

Perceived harmfulness of using inhalants increased among 8th and 10th graders. Perceptions of "great risk" from trying inhalants once or twice increased from 41.2 percent to 45.6 percent among 8th graders and from 46.6 percent to 49.9 percent for 10th graders.

Perceived harmfulness of regularly smoking marijuana decreased from 74.8 percent to 72.2 percent among 8th graders.

Perceived harmfulness of regularly taking LSD declined from 57.5 percent to 52.9 percent among 8th graders and from 72.0 percent to 68.8 percent among 10th graders.

Perceived harmfulness of trying MDMA once or twice increased among 12th graders, the only grade asked; the proportion seeing "great risk" increased from 37.9 percent to 45.7 percent.

Seniors' disapproval of using heroin once or twice without a needle declined from 94.0 percent in 2000 to 91.7 percent in 2001.

Perceived availability of MDMA (ecstasy) increased sharply among seniors, from 51.4 percent to 61.5 percent.

The perceived availability of crack and cocaine powder declined among 10th graders. The percent that thought cocaine powder would be "very" or "fairly easy" to get went from 34.5 percent to 31.0 percent.

Cigarette Use. Cigarette use among teens declined in several categories between 2000 and 2001. Lifetime use decreased from 40.5 percent to 36.6 percent among 8th graders and from 55.1 percent to 52.8 percent among 10th graders; past month use declined from 14.6 percent to 12.2 percent among 8th graders, and from 23.9 percent to 21.3 percent among 10th graders; daily use in the past month declined from 7.4 percent to 5.5 percent among 8th graders and from 14.0 percent to 12.2 percent among 10th graders.

Recent years have seen several declines in smoking by youth. Reductions in smoking between 1999 and 2000 involved students in all three grades and several categories of use; between 1998 and 1999 past month use declined among 8th graders; and between 1997 and 1998 cigarette use decreased among 10th and 12th graders.

Rates of smokeless tobacco use remained statistically unchanged between 2000 and 2001. In 2001, 4.0 percent of 8th graders, 6.9 percent of 10th graders, and 7.8 percent of 12th graders reported using smokeless tobacco in the past month.

Ecstasy. The increase in MDMA reported in the last two Monitoring the Future surveys slowed in 2001. While increases were observed in all three grades, they were generally not as steep as in the past two years and were not statistically significant. In addition, the perceived risk of harm from trying MDMA once or twice increased among seniors. Increases in perceived risk are often harbingers of future reductions in rates of use.

Steroids (anabolic-androgenic).Seniors' use of steroids in the lifetime, past year, and past month increased from 2000 to 2001. Past year use increased from 1.7 percent to 2.4 percent. Comparable 2001 figures for past year steroid use in other grades were 1.6 percent for the 8th and 2.1 percent for the 10th.

Marijuana. Marijuana use in the lifetime, past year, and past month remained statistically unchanged from 2000 to 2001 in each grade. In 2001, past year rates of marijuana use were 15.4 percent of 8th graders, 32.7 percent for 10th graders, and 37.0 percent for 12th graders.

In the 27 years that the MTF study has collected data, past year prevalence rates for self-reported marijuana use by seniors peaked at 50.8 percent in 1979 and declined to a low of 21.9 percent in 1992. Since then, it reached a relative maximum of 38.5 percent in 1997 and is now at 37.0 percent in 2001.

Cocaine and Crack. Cocaine use, including both cocaine powder and crack, decreased from 2000 to 2001 among 10th graders. Lifetime use of cocaine in any form declined from 6.9 percent to 5.7 percent in this group, lifetime use of crack decreased from 3.7 percent to 3.1 percent, and past year use of cocaine powder declined from 3.8 percent to 3.0 percent.

Alcohol. Between 2000 and 2001, alcohol use indicators remained mostly stable with some signs of decrease but only two changes that were statistically significant: Having been drunk in the past year declined among 8th graders, from 18.5 percent in 2000 to 16.6 percent in 2001. In an exception to the overall pattern, daily alcohol use increased among 12th graders, from 2.9 percent to 3.6 percent.

Heroin. Heroin use declined from 2000 to 2001 among 10th and 12th graders. For 10th graders, past year use decreased from 1.4 percent to 0.9 percent, and for 12th graders it was down from 1.5 percent to 0.9 percent. In addition, lifetime heroin use declined for both these grades. This decrease in overall heroin use among 10th and 12th graders resulted largely from a decrease in use of the drug without a needle (i.e., snorting or smoking it).

This year's decrease in heroin use among 12th graders reverses an increase in use of the drug in this grade between 1999 and 2000 that brought it to the highest level seen in the history of the survey; the new rate for 2001, 0.9 percent for past year use, is the lowest seen since 1994.

Inhalants. Rates of inhalant use continued the gradual declining trend seen in recent years, though the decrease from 2000 to 2001 was statistically significant only for 12th graders' past year use of these substances; the rate declined from 5.9 percent to 4.5 percent. In 2001 9.1 percent of 8th graders, 6.6 percent of 10th graders, and 4.5 percent of 12th graders reported using inhalants in the past year.