Monitoring the Future of Substance Use

Every year since the 1970s, the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research conducts the Monitoring the Future study. This survey asks children, teens, and young adults about their lives and their health habits.

Many of the questions in this study relate to alcohol and drug use and the attitudes about substance use and abuse. The study released in 2018 is no different and included details about trends in drug and alcohol use.

2018’s report included a great deal of good news. According to the study, binge drinking is down among twelfth graders in the United States. Binge drinking is the practice of drinking a great deal of alcohol in a short amount of time.

Binge drinking is dangerous. Drinking so much alcohol in so little time bombards the body and people sometimes cannot process all of this alcohol. Younger drinkers may be less experienced drinkers or may be smaller in stature, which can make it even more difficult to process alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption may also make people pass out, which can lead to injuries or make them vulnerable to assault.

Clearly, less binge drinking is a good thing. The 2018 Monitoring the Future study also noted reductions in other substance use among young people. For example, compared to totals from five years earlier, far fewer eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders used opioid drugs in the 2018 report. The respondents also said that it is considerably harder to obtain the drugs than it once was.

While binge drinking and opioid use is down among U.S. young people, another type of substance abuse is on the rise: vaping. Vaping is the practice of inhaling vapors created by burning nicotine, marijuana, or other products.

According to the study, 37.3 percent of U.S. twelfth graders said they vaped in the past year. That means more than one-third of twelfth graders vaped in the previous twelve months.

Although some people consider vaping a safer alternative than smoking marijuana or tobacco products, it is still dangerous. People who vape may still inhale nicotine or other chemicals that can be harmful. They may become dependent or addicted to the products.

This study seems to indicate that while we’ve made strides dealing with addictive substances, there are still areas that need further help and investigation.