Access to the PPM Journal and newsletters is FREE for clinicians.

NIDA Releases 2018 Statistics on Opioid, Tobacco, and Cannabis Use Among High Schoolers

December 18, 2018
While results reveal low opioid use in teen population, vaping is on the rise

A PPM Brief

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has announced1 results from its Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, conducted annually by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor since 1975. Just under 45,000 students from approximately 390 public and private schools nationwide participated in the 2018 survey, which measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use in 8th, 10th, and 12th graders nationwide.

Survey participants reported drug use behaviors (such as substance abuse and misuse) for illicit and prescription drugs across three-time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. One in four high school seniors reported using an illicit drug in the past month, led by marijuana (22.2%), amphetamines (2.4%) and hallucinogens (1.4%).

High SchoolersOpioid misuse has seen record lows in high schoolers, while marijuana use remains stable for 2018. (Source: 123RF)


Despite an alarming rise in the use of vaping (37.3% of 12th graders reported use of “any vaping” in the past 12 months, compared to 27.8% in 2017), teenage opioid use (heroin, OxyContin, and Vicodin) in the past year dropped from 4.2% in 2017 to 3.4% in 2018 among high school seniors.

Only 1.7% of 12th graders reported misusing Vicodin and 2.3% reported misusing OxyContin in the past year. Heroin use in all three grades remained low, with only 0.4% of 12th graders reporting use in the past year.


The percentage of students experimenting with cannabis regularly seems to have remained steady, with 5.8% of 12th graders reporting daily use in 2018 (daily use of marijuana reported by high school seniors over the past 20 years has been shown to be between 5.0% and 6.6%). Only 26.7% of 12th graders said that they think regular marijuana use is of great harm to them. While past year rates of cannabis use also remained steady among sophomores (27.5%) and seniors (35.9%), there was a significant five-year drop among eighth graders, from 12.7% in 2013 to 10.5% in 2018.


The 2018 survey shows that regular tobacco use is at its lowest point since the introduction of the survey, with only 3.6% of high school seniors reporting daily use, compared to 22.4% two decades ago.

“With illicit opioid use at generally the lowest in the history of the survey, it is possible that being in high school offers a protective effect against opioid misuse and addiction,” said Nora D. Volkow, MD, NIDA director, in a press release. “We will be focusing much of our new prevention research on the period of time when teens transition out of school into the adult world and become exposed to the dangerous use of these drugs.”

Last updated on: December 21, 2018
Continue Reading:
Opioid Misuse Among College Population
close X