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12-22 Increase in vaping, pot and K2 use among high school seniors; sharp decline in opioid misuse, says MTF survey

Increase in vaping, pot and K2 use among high school seniors; sharp decline in opioid misuse, says MTF survey

Every new survey on substance use among American teens highlights new concerns, validates certain expectations and also provides optimism. Findings of the 2017 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, released on Dec. 14, 2017, followed a similar pattern when it revealed that among teens, marijuana is the most popular drug of abuse followed by K2 or Spice. The annual survey, conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, also showed that opioid misuse is at an all-time low.

Key trends of the survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), highlighted substance use trends among nearly 45,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12, showed that:

  • Past-year marijuana use registered the first significant increase (1.3 percent) in seven years for all three grades combined, validating expectations of an increase among adolescents.
  • Past-year vaping trends were of concern, with 27.8 percent high school seniors (12th graders) reporting “any vaping.” Significant levels of marijuana and nicotine vaping were also recorded.
  • Past-year use of K2/Spice (synthetic marijuana, fake pot or fake weed) among 12th graders was at 3.7 percent, down from 11.3 percent in 2012. Past-year use among 8th graders declined significantly, from 2.7 percent to 2 percent. There was also a significant change in 8th graders’ perceptions about K2/Spice – in 2017, 23 percent attached great risk to users trying it once or twice, compared to 27.5 percent in 2016.
  • Prescription opioids misuse continued its downward trend, with 4.2 percent high school seniors reporting past-year use of “narcotics other than heroin,” less than half the prevalence (9.5 percent) in 2004. A significant decline in past-year use of Vicodin from 2.9 percent to 2 percent was also observed.

The survey also recorded a significant increase in the use of inhalants among 8th grade students – life-time use increased from 1.2 percent to 8.9 percent, while past-year use increased from 0.9 percent to 4.7 percent. The downward trend in binge drinking among all three grades appeared to have slowed down, even though it remained well below the levels recorded a decade ago.

K2/Spice second most popular illegal drug among teens

According to the NIDA, K2/Spice has become the second most popular illegal drug among American teens, after marijuana. The popularity is particularly high among teen boys. Although the drug is marketed as a natural and safe alternative to marijuana, it can have a dangerous, and sometimes life-threatening, effect. Thousands of teens and young adults, mostly young men, have been admitted to emergency rooms with severe symptoms like racing heartbeat, hallucinations, seizures, vomiting or elevated blood pressure.

A recent research published in the journal Pediatrics showed that 9.4 percent students from grades 9 to 12 had ever used synthetic marijuana in 2015. Such teens had a higher likelihood of being injured, engaging in violent behaviors, becoming victims of physical/sexual assault or engaging in risky sex, compared to those who used only marijuana. Students using fake pot were also more likely to have an early onset of marijuana use (before the age of 13), compared with students using only marijuana.

Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, compared teen synthetic marijuana use to “a game of Russian roulette.” He warned that since fake pot was sprayed with harmful chemicals or even pesticides, it could lead to unpredictable, and sometimes lethal, consequences. “In addition, there is heightened risk for seizures associated with the use of synthetic cannabinoids, which can lead to airway obstruction, coma and death,” said Glatter.

Prevention programs must address use of synthetic drugs

Prevention programs must focus on reducing youngsters’ initiation into synthetic drugs. There are concerns that schools do not adequately screen adolescent students for all substances, particularly synthetic drugs. Teens are often drawn to such drugs due to their easy availability, lower cost and relatively lower chances of detection. Parents should monitor their children for obvious symptoms and contact a health care professional in case they exhibit symptoms like paranoia, aggression or agitation.

Sovereign Health understands the plight of teenagers suffering from addiction to illicit drugs, including teen spice addiction. Our Rancho San Diego facility provides a host of necessary treatment procedures and behavioral therapies for youngsters. To know more, call at our 24/7 helpline or chat online with our representatives for expert advice about teen spice addiction treatment.

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