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Study: Teen Drug Use Down, 'Vaping' Up

12-22-2014
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While the number of high school students who abuse prescription painkillers is way down, a new study reveals it's not all good news.

The latest study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which has been tracking teen drug behavior for the past 40 years, shows fewer teens are using illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine.

"Probably that relates to very aggressive campaigns for prevention," Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said.

Binge drinking and traditional cigarette smoking are also on the decline, according to the study. 

Today, e-cigarettes are increasingly popular among teens, with almost one in five high school seniors engaging in what's known as "vaping."

E-cigarettes are highly addictive and may not be as safe as people think.

"One of the arguments has been that when you're vaping nicotine you are not inhaling all the combustion products from tobacco leaves that you get from a regular cigarette," Dr. Volkow explained.

"The problem has to do with the fact that if these e-cigarettes are improperly manufactured, then they can deliver toxins from leakage from paint or other materials that are used in their production," Volkow continued.

Marijuana, now legal in some states, continues to be a teen favorite, with an estimated 40 percent of high school seniors using it.

"Unfortunately, for marijuana we are not seeing decreases in the rate of use; however, we're not seeing increases, which is good news because we had predicted with all the changes in policy and the decreases in perception that marijuana is harmful, that there would be a rise in the use among teenagers," Dr. Volkow said.

Another area of concern is teens using prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, the drug prescribed for ADHD, to get high or to study for tests.

"The problem of using stimulant medication to study for tests is that stimulant drugs are addictive and actually they can be highly addictive," Dr. Volkow explained.

"Number two, the use of stimulants can produce psychosis, they can also trigger seizure. They also have cardiovascular negative effects. And finally there's no evidence that the use of stimulants in someone who does not have ADHD can improve their cognitive performance," she said.

So while teenage drug abuse in America is still among the highest in the world, it appears to be holding steady or trending downward in several key areas.

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