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Professional News
Alcohol Education Messages Taking Hold
Psychiatric News
Volume 42 Number 3 page 13-13

Researchers studying trends in drug and alcohol use in young people noted that alcohol use has declined significantly among eighth graders since peaks in 1996. Smaller declines were also noted for older students over that time period. Last year, nearly all measures of drinking declined slightly for all grade levels.

According to the 2006 Monitoring the Future Study, 24.5 percent of eighth graders used alcohol during the month in 1996 preceding the survey. As of last year, just 17.2 percent did. As for 12th graders, more than half (52.7) reported past-month alcohol use in 1996, and that number was 45.3 percent last year. About 40.4 percent of 10th graders reported past-month alcohol use in 1996 compared with 33.8 percent last year.

The Monitoring the Future study is conducted annually by researchers at the University of Michigan among a representative nationwide sample of about 48,500 eighth, 10th, and 12th graders. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funds the study, which it uses to measure trends in the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco by young people (see article at left).

In addition to questions about alcohol use, researchers also asked about past-month drunkenness. They found little change. In 2006, about 6 percent of eighth graders, 19 percent of 10th graders, and 30 percent of 12th graders reported being drunk at least once during the prior month, about the same as in 2005.

Also, after a decade of steady decline, daily smoking rates stopped declining in 2006 among students at all grade levels. Since the mid-1990s, daily smoking rates have fallen by half among 12th graders and by more than half among eighth and 10th graders. For instance, in 1997, 24.6 percent of seniors reported smoking daily, compared with just 12.2 percent last year. Government officials attributed past decade declines to antismoking campaigns.

"We have seen dramatic decreases in smoking," said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D., who spoke at a press conference announcing the findings in Washington, D.C., in December 2006. "The consequences have been a significant reduction in mortality from cigarette smoking."

She added that before trying drugs, most young people start using cigarettes. "This is why it is so important to reduce smoking rates."

Results of the 2006 Monitoring the Future Survey are posted at<http://monitoringthefuture.org/>.

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