Press Release

Disclosures: Miech and Volkow report no relevant financial disclosures.
December 16, 2021
2 min read

Teen drug use decreased during pandemic, survey finds


Press Release

Disclosures: Miech and Volkow report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Self-reported drug use by teens decreased during the pandemic, according to an NIH-funded study.

Since 1975, the Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, has been tracking substance use among adolescent students in the U.S.


Teen drug use has decreased among teens, according to an NIH-funded study. Source: NIH

Data from the survey, released this week, showed that during the pandemic, the use of numerous drugs among teenagers decreased exponentially.

NIDA Director Nora Volkow, MD, said that the decreases were unprecedented.

“We have never seen such dramatic decreases in drug use among teens in just a 1-year period. These data are unprecedented and highlight one unexpected potential consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused seismic shifts in the day-to-day lives of adolescents,” Volkow said in a news release.

“Moving forward, it will be crucial to identify the pivotal elements of this past year that contributed to decreased drug use — whether related to drug availability, family involvement, differences in peer pressure, or other factors — and harness them to inform future prevention efforts,” Volkow said.

According to the survey, in 2021, 17.2% of eighth grade students reported using alcohol in the past year, compared with 20.5% in 2020. There was a sharp decrease in reported use among 10th graders, from 40.7% in 2020 to 28.5% in 2021, and a mild decrease among 12th graders, from 55.3% in 2020 to 46.5%.

The proportion of respondents who reported using marijuana in any form decreased significantly from 11.4% to 7.1%, 28% to 17.3% and 35.2% to 30.5%, for eighth, 10th and 12th grade students, respectively.

Reported use of all illicit drugs other than marijuana also decreased among all three groups, from 7.7% to 4.6%, 8.6% to 5.1% and 11.4% to 7.2%.

“In addition to looking at these significant 1-year declines in substance use among young people, the real benefit of the Monitoring the Future survey is our unique ability to track changes over time, and over the course of history,” Richard A. Miech, PhD, lead author of the paper and team lead of the Monitoring the Future study at the University of Michigan, said in the release.

“We knew that this year’s data would illuminate how the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted substance use among young people,” Miech said, “and in the coming years, we will find out whether those impacts are long-lasting as we continue tracking the drug use patterns of these unique cohorts of adolescents.”


NIH. Monitoring the Future. Accessed Dec. 16, 2021.