The latest results from the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study are in and while there are some encouraging signs, much work yet remains to be done. It is important to note that the survey had to be cut short due to COVID-19 so these results do not account for the effect the pandemic may have had on substance use. Here are the main findings:

  • Previous data showed that prevalence of vaping among 8th, 10th and 12th graders doubled from 2017 to 2019: from 7.5% to 16.5% in 8th graders; 15.8% to 30.7% in 10th graders; 18.8% to 35.3%. in 12th graders. Those rates seem to have stabilized in 2020, holding steady at a respective 16.6%, 30.7%, and 34.5%.
  • From 2019-2020, the use of marijuana (in all forms, including smoking and vaping), did not significantly change in any of the three grades for lifetime use, past 12-month use, past 30-day use.
  • Past year non-medical use of amphetamines among eighth graders increased from 3.5% in 2017 to 5.3% in 2020. However, 10th and 12th graders reported recent lows in past year use at 4.3% for both grades and significant 5-year declines.
  • Past year use of over-the-counter cough medicine among eighth graders has gradually increased over the past five years, from 1.6% in 2015 to 4.6% in 2020, its highest rate since 2006.
  • Alcohol use has not significantly changed over the past five years. However, across all grades, alcohol use in the past 12 months has leveled off from its historical gradual decline.
  • Cigarette smoking in the last 30 days did not significantly change from 2019 to 2020. In all three grades, prevalence has dropped at least four-fold since the mid-1990s and is at or near historic lows.

Dr. Sharif Mohr of Drug Free America Foundation remarked, “It is encouraging to see that vaping and marijuana use have leveled off and that cigarette use is at an all time low. However, far too many children in this country continue to use vaping devices to consume nicotine or potent marijuana products. Furthermore, the near doubling of non-medical amphetamine use and tripling of OTC cough syrup use among 8th graders is extremely concerning. It remains unclear how these patterns of youth substance use have been impacted by the pandemic, but this should be a focus for future research.”