Study Shows Growing Trend in Ecstasy, Marijuana Use Among Teens

Teen drug use has spiked in the past few years after a decade on the decline, according to a new national survey.

The annual Partnership Aptitude Tracking Study recorded a 67-percent jump from 2008 to 2010 in the number of teens who reported using ecstasy. Six percent of teens said they tried the stimulant in 2008, compared to 10 percent of those surveyed last year, the study shows.

Past-year marijuana use increased 22 percent within those two years as well, from 32 percent of teens reportedly using it in 2008 to 39 percent in 2010.

About a quarter of teens surveyed said they tried their first alcoholic drink by the age of 12. By age 15, more than 60 percent had tried their first drink.

Forty-five percent of teens surveyed said they do not see “a great risk” in heavy daily drinking.

The 22nd annual study conducted by The Partnership at and MetLife Foundation polled 2,544 teens and 831 parents.

The survey aims to shed light on risky teen behavior and give parents talking points about drug and alcohol use.

“These findings should serve as a call to action for parents,” said MetLife President and CEO Dennis White in a statement. “We encourage parents and caregivers to pay attention to the warning signs of teen drinking and other drug use, in order to intervene early and effectively.”

Some of those national numbers are similar to those reported by Newark Unified School District students in last year’s California Healthy Kids Survey, which asks students similar questions about substance abuse.

The Healthy Kids Survey polls kids in grades 5 through 11, and its questions are a little bit different. But it showed that 55 percent of 11th graders and 44 percent of ninth grade students Newark have tried alcohol or some drug at least once in their life.

Though the results about actual drug use were similar between both surveys, the local one suggests Newark students are more educated about the risks of substance abuse.

In stark contrast to the national study, the vast majority of Newark students see the danger of frequent alcohol consumption.

The Healthy Kids Survey shows that 88 percent of 11th graders view regular alcohol use as harmful. Another 81 percent perceived frequent marijuana use as dangerous.

Prescription drug abuse among teens has remained steady since 2008, per the national study.

“I’m not surprised,” said April Rovero, founder of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. “I’m dismayed and frustrated. I talk with people about this all over the country … I’ve seen that it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse.”

Forty-four percent of teens in 2008 and 45 percent in 2009 said they had tried OxyContin, Vicodin or some other type of powerful painkiller not prescribed to them by a doctor, according to the MetLife report.

There was a significant shift in teens’ attitudes about prescription drug availability, however. In 2010, 38 percent of survey respondents said they believe prescription drugs “are available everywhere” compared to 55 percent who felt that way in 2009.

In 2010, 47 percent of teens said they felt it easy to get prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinet, compared to 63 percent the year before.

“If that’s the case, that does show that there’s hope,” Rovero said. “It shows that some awareness efforts are started to make a difference.”

Rovero, a San Ramon resident, lost her son Joey to a prescription drug overdose in 2009. He was 21 years old. She has since made it her life mission to educate others about the dangers of abusing doctor-OK’d drugs.

“My hope is that people will realize how dangerous these drugs really are,” she said.

The marked uptick in marijuana and alcohol use among youth alarms her, Rovero added, because it likely means more teens are open to trying harder substances.

The national study points out that kids who try alcohol are 40 percent more likely to develop a drinking problem later in life.

Even among the teens who responded to the MetLife survey, 24 percent said they drink to “deal with problems at home.” Another 14 percent said “it’s a habit I can’t stop.”

Other findings (source: The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study)

  • Teen abuse of prescription medicines continues to be an area of major concern, with abuse rates holding steady and at levels that should be worrisome to parents.
  • The data found one in four teens (25 percent) reported taking a prescription drug not prescribed to them by a doctor at least once in their lives, and more than one in five teens (23 percent) used a prescription pain reliever not prescribed to them by a doctor.
  • Teen past-year use of over-the-counter cough medicine has remained at roughly one in ten (11 percent).
  • Past-year teen inhalant abuse remains at 10 percent, yet only 60 percent of teens strongly agree that “sniffing or huffing things to get high can kill you,” significantly less than the 70 percent of teens who said the same in 2008. Inhalant abuse merits careful monitoring—as teen attitudes towards inhalant abuse weaken, abuse is more likely to increase.
  • Teen smoking rates have remained stable with 27 percent of teens reporting smoking cigarettes in the past month.
  • Among teens, past-year methamphetamine use is holding at 5 percent and cocaine/crack is at 9 percent. Teen use of heroin use remains low at 4 percent for lifetime use.

Where to find help

For parents who suspect or know their child uses drugs or alcohol, there’s an online community called Time To Get Help.

The MetLife study says 9 million young adults and teens struggle with drugs and alcohol. But unlike for most youth diseases or health problems, parents don’t have a clear-cut resource to deal with it.

That’s why Time to Get Help was created. To learn more, check out

– Article originally from The Newark Patch.