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Smoking, drinking falls off among teens, but not drug use

| Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, 5:39 p.m.

NEW YORK — Fewer teenagers are consuming alcohol or smoking cigarettes than at any time in at least 40 years, although their use of many illicit drugs remains steady, according to a national study released this week.

Growing peer disapproval may be a top factor in the drop in drinking and smoking in 2014, according to the study by the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future program.

Monitoring the Future, used by federal officials to track data on youth substance abuse, surveyed between 40,000 and 50,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 in 400 schools.

“There is a lot of good news in this year's results, but the problems of teen substance use and abuse are still far from going away,” said Lloyd Johnston, principal investigator of the study.

Just 41 percent of teens surveyed said they drank alcohol, down from a peak of 61 percent who reported doing so in 1997. Binge drinking was also down sharply, the study found.

Likewise, just 8 percent of teens surveyed said they smoked cigarettes, down from a peak of 28 percent, also reached in 1997.

The use of both alcohol and cigarettes was the lowest in the history of the survey, which began in 1975.

Teens also reported less use of some popular illicit drugs, including synthetic marijuana and Ecstasy.

But their use of heroin, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine was unchanged in the past two years.

Although the teens reported using less of the narcotic painkiller OxyContin, use of stimulants Ritalin and Adderall — used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — remained steady.

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