NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Monitoring the Future, DAWN Surveys Show Increasing Drug and Alcohol Use and Changing Attitudes


January 1995

Two federally-funded annual surveys are showing some increases in drug use, a levelling-off in other areas, and changing attitudes toward drug use.

The 1994 Monitoring the Future Survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th-grade school students was touted by Federal officials as revealing a significant increase in marijuana use, which has been on the rise for the last three years.

High school seniors reporting using marijuana at least once in the last year rose from 26 percent in 1993 to 30.7 percent in 1994. In 1992 that figure was 21.9 percent. These figures are still far below the high levels of the late 1970s: in 1979 50.8 percent reported using marijuana at least once in the last year.

Overall rates of seniors reporting ever using an illegal drug (at least once in their lifetime) rose from 42.9% in 1993 to 45.6% in 1994, but are still below 1981's peak of 65.6%. (These numbers omit dropouts and others not in surveyed schools.)

Smaller increases were also charted for cocaine and hallucinogen use.

Alcohol use for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders remained steady between 1993 and 1994. However, rates of alcohol use are still far higher than rates for other drugs -- 25.5 percent of 8th graders and 39.2 percent of 10th graders reported using alcohol in the last month. 9 percent of 8th graders and 20.3 percent of 10th graders reported being drunk at least once in the last month.

Significantly fewer students than in previous years responding from all three grades believe that smoking marijuana occasionally or regularly is "harmful." These figures for use of all other drugs except inhalants also fell.

The Monitoring the Future survey, conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, polled 15,929 seniors, 16,080 sophomores, and 17,708 8th grade school students in public and private schools. The 1994 survey marks the 20th annual Monitoring the Future report (formerly known as the High School Senior survey).

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) surveys emergency room visits and medical examiner reports for cases in which the cause is attributed to the use of an illegal drug or the use of a legal drug for non-medical reasons. The data released for 1993 show an overall 8 percent increase in drug-related ER visits from 1992. DAWN estimates that 45 percent of that increase was due to heroin-related visits.

The DAWN survey is financed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

[For more information on the Monitoring the Future survey, contact the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 10A39, Rockville, MD, 20857, 301-443-6245. For more information about the DAWN survey, contact SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 16C-18, Rockville, MD 20857, 301-443-8956. See also Drugs and Drug Abuse Education Newsletter, Nov./Dec. 1994; Pierre Thomas, "Use of Drugs By Teenagers Is Increasing," Washington Post, Dec. 13, 1994, p. A1; Michael Janofsky, "Drug Use Rising Among Teen-Agers, Study Says," New York Times, Dec. 13, 1994, p. 1; Drug Enforcement Report, Dec. 23, 1994, p. 4-5; Drug Policy Report, Dec. 1994, p. 1, 6.]