Monitoring the Future Survey, Overview of Findings 2012

This year’s Monitoring the Future Survey is encouraging with declining drug use among high school teens; however, concerns remain about the persistent high rates of marijuana and nonmedical prescription drug use.

The Good News

  • Cigarette smoking continues to fall to the lowest rate in the survey’s history. One-year declines were seen in lifetime use among 8th and 10th graders and all prevalence periods have seen a continued and longer term trend of decreasing cigarette use. For example, five-year trends showed significant drops among all grades. Current use was reported by 4.9% of 8th graders, down from 7.1% in 2007 and from 6.1% last year.  Tenth and 12th graders also saw a drop from 2007 to 2012 with 10.8% of 10th graders and 17.1% of 12th graders reporting past month use.  
  • Likewise, five-year trends showed significant decreases in alcohol use among all grades and across nearly all prevalence periods. For example, from 2007 to 2012, current use of alcohol declined from 15.9% to 11.0% among 8th graders, from 33.4% to 27.6% among 10th graders and from 44.4% to 41.5% among high school seniors. From 2011 to 2012, decreases were observed in lifetime, past year, current and binge use of alcohol among 8th graders.
  • The use of Ecstasy showed a significant drop in past year use from 2011 to 2012, reported by 1.1% of 8th graders, 3% of 10th graders, and 3.8% of 12th graders.
  • Overall, the use of most illicit drugs has either declined or remained steady from 2011 to 2012. For example, use of inhalants is at its lowest levels in the history of the survey across all grades and prevalence periods. Among 8th graders for whom inhalant use is most prevalent, current use has decreased to 2.7%. Also among 8th graders, declines were reported for current use of amphetamines, cocaine and hallucinogens.  Past year use of Salvia decreased from 3.9% to 2.5% among 10th graders and from 5.9% to 4.4% among 12th graders.

Areas of Concern

  • Five-year trends are showing significant increases in past month (current) marijuana use among 10th and 12th graders and an increase in daily marijuana use across all three grades. From 2007 to 2012, past month use increased from 14.2% to 17.0% among 10th graders and from 18.8% to 22.9% among 12th graders. Among high school seniors it was at its highest point since the late 1990’s. Additionally, these increases continue to parallel softening attitudes for the last several years about the perceived risk of harm associated with marijuana use.
  • This year’s survey captured the use of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or “Spice”, among 8th and 10th graders for the first time.  Past year use was reported by 4.4% of 8th graders and by 8.8% of 10th graders. About 1 in 9, or 11.3% of high school seniors reported use of synthetic marijuana–unchanged from 2011.  Also new in the survey this year was the past year use of bath salts reported by 0.8% of 8th graders, 0.6% of 10th graders, and 1.3% of 12th graders.  
  • Many of the drugs used by 12th graders are prescription or over-the-counter medications.  Although this year’s survey showed a long term drop in past year nonmedical use of Vicodin among all grades, its use remains at unacceptably high levels (e.g., at 7.5% among high school seniors). 
  • The abuse of prescription stimulants is also a cause for concern. In the past several years the percent of 12th graders reporting the nonmedical use of Adderall has increased from 5.4% in 2009 to 7.6% in 2012. As in nearly all cases, attitudes toward substance abuse are often seen as harbingers of change in reported use. In 2012 nearly 6% fewer high school seniors reported that trying Adderall occasionally was harmful–an indication that use may continue to rise.
  • The survey continues to show that most teens obtain prescription drugs like amphetamines, tranquilizers, or narcotics other than heroin, for free from friends and family; roughly 68% of 12th graders, for example, report getting prescription pain relievers this way.
Percentage of U.S. twelth grade students reporting past month use of cigarettes and marijunana, 1975 to 2012

Read the full description of Percentage of U.S. twelfth grade students reporting past month use of cigarettes and marijuana, 1975 to 2012
  • Year 1975: Cigarettes 36.7, Marijuana 27.1
  • Year 1976: Cigarettes 38.8, Marijuana 32.2
  • Year 1977: Cigarettes 38.4, Marijuana 35.4
  • Year 1978: Cigarettes 36.7, Marijuana 37.1
  • Year 1979: Cigarettes 34.4, Marijuana 36.5
  • Year 1980: Cigarettes 30.5, Marijuana 33.7
  • Year 1981: Cigarettes 29.4, Marijuana 31.6
  • Year 1982: Cigarettes 30, Marijuana 28.5
  • Year 1983: Cigarettes 30.3, Marijuana 27
  • Year 1984: Cigarettes 29.3, Marijuana 25.2
  • Year 1985: Cigarettes 30.1, Marijuana 25.7
  • Year 1986: Cigarettes 29.6, Marijuana 23.4
  • Year 1987: Cigarettes 29.4, Marijuana 21
  • Year 1988: Cigarettes 28.7, Marijuana 18
  • Year 1989: Cigarettes 28.6, Marijuana 16.7
  • Year 1990: Cigarettes 29.4, Marijuana 14
  • Year 1991: Cigarettes 28.3, Marijuana 13.8
  • Year 1992: Cigarettes 27.8, Marijuana 11.9
  • Year 1993: Cigarettes 29.9, Marijuana 15.5
  • Year 1994: Cigarettes 31.2, Marijuana 19
  • Year 1995: Cigarettes 33.5, Marijuana 21.2
  • Year 1996: Cigarettes 34, Marijuana 21.9
  • Year 1997: Cigarettes 36.5, Marijuana 23.7
  • Year 1998: Cigarettes 35.1, Marijuana 22.8
  • Year 1999: Cigarettes 34.6, Marijuana 23.1
  • Year 2000: Cigarettes 31.4, Marijuana 21.6
  • Year 2001: Cigarettes 29.5, Marijuana 22.4
  • Year 2002: Cigarettes 26.7, Marijuana 21.5
  • Year 2003: Cigarettes 24.4, Marijuana 21.2
  • Year 2004: Cigarettes 25, Marijuana 19.9
  • Year 2005: Cigarettes 23.2, Marijuana 19.8
  • Year 2006: Cigarettes 21.6, Marijuana 18.3
  • Year 2007: Cigarettes 21.6, Marijuana 18.8
  • Year 2008: Cigarettes 20.4, Marijuana 19.4
  • Year 2009: Cigarettes 20.1, Marijuana 20.6
  • Year 2010: Cigarettes 19.2, Marijuana 21.4
  • Year 2011: Cigarettes 18.7, Marijuana 22.6
  • Year 2012: Cigarettes 17.1, Marijuana 22.9

Use of Adderall and Perceived Risk of Harm by 12th graders

Read the full description of Use of Adderall and Perceived Risk of Harm by 12th graders
  • Year 2009, Use of Adderall 5.4%, Perceived Risk not measured
  • Year 2010, Use of Adderall 6.5%, Perceived Risk 41.6%
  • Year 2011, Use of Adderall 6.5%, Perceived Risk 40.8%
  • Year 2012, Use of Adderall 7.6%*, Perceived Risk 35%**
  • * significant increase from 2009
    ** significant decrease from previous year.


Transcript: 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey

Narrator speaking:

When it comes to drug use among the nation's teens, the latest Monitoring the Future Survey shows the need for continued concern.

Jack Stein, Ph.D. (Director, Office of Science Policy & Communications) speaking:

The Monitoring the Future survey is the longest term survey that's been conducted and sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

It's been in existence for nearly 40 years looking at trends in drugs alcohol and tobacco use amongst eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders.

The good news is that illegal drug use in this country amongst young people is down the areas of concern is that marijuana uses up and it has been for the past five years.

Narrator speaking:

Six point five percent, or one in 15 high school seniors smoked marijuana daily.

That's up from five point one percent five years ago.

Dr. Gaya Dowling (Chief, Science Policy Branch) speaking:

Regular marijuana use is preventing too many young people from reaching their full potential.

THC, a key ingredient in marijuana affects a region of the brain that's involved in memory.

In fact, recent research shows that starting marijuana used during the teen years can reduce IQ and lead to reduced cognitive abilities.

Narrator speaking:

While use of increased perceived risk of marijuana harmfulness has dropped significantly from five years ago to where less than half of 12th graders now see regular use of marijuana as harmful.

Dr. Gaya Dowling speaking:

It's important to point out that adolescent marijuana use increases the risk for later addiction.

About one in six teens that start using marijuana will become addicted.

That risk goes up to 25 to 50 percent among daily users.

Narrator speaking:

When it comes to prescription drug abuse, researchers report mixed results, while abuse of the prescription pain reliever vicodin is down, it remains at unacceptably high levels.

There was also an increase in the abuse of adderall, a stimulant often prescribed to treat ADHD.

Dr. Gaya Dowling speaking:

Many older teens believe that prescription stimulants like adderall will help them take tests.

In reality, there's little evidence of that, but a lot of evidence that it can cause harm.

It can increase anxiety, affect heart rate, and be addictive.

Narrator speaking:

This marked the first time the survey measured teen abuse of bath salts and the second year researchers examined abuse of synthetic marijuana also known as spice or k2.

Dr. Wilson Compton (Director, Division of Epidemiology Services & Prevention Research) speaking:

What we've learned over the past years, past couple of years, is that synthetic marijuana, that's k2 and spice, is quite common.

Around 11% of high school seniors report using these potentially very dangerous substances.

Bath salts were - which are another very dangerous substance are used by about one in a hundred about 1% of high school students.

Narrator speaking:

As for illicit drugs other than marijuana the survey found usage at its lowest levels for all three grades.

One promising trend was the drop in ecstasy use by high school seniors.

It fell from 5.3 percent to 3.8 percent in one year.

Dr. Gaya Dowling speaking:

NIDA will continue to do research to better understand drug abuse and addiction and how to prevent and treat it, and to get that information to teens, parents, anybody who can influence them so that they can make healthier decisions.

Narrator speaking:

More than 45,000 eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders participated in this year's Monitoring the Future survey.

To learn more visit

Transcript: 2012 Monitoring the Future - Teen Perspective


Danielle Rollins (Edison High School, 11th grade) speaking:

Today I learned about drug prevention and how drugs have declined in the past few years and high school students and that's a really good thing.

Patrick Healy (Gonzaga High School, 12th grade) speaking:

Today I learned that although marijuana has leveled off in the Monitor in the Future Survey Results, it's still an unacceptable level.

Mary Hill (West Potomac High School, 11th grade) speaking:

In the past few years I've really noticed that you know the perception of harm in the the effects of marijuana use has really gone down so I was really interested to find that this also applies to the entire country not just my community.

Dr. Nora Volkow speaking:

We were interested in knowing why our kids were starting to  favor these drugs and one of the consistent finding is there belief that because they are being prescribed for medical purposes they're actually much less risky.

Danielle Rollins speaking:

I also learned about how they've been doing tests on people and taking brain scans and figured out how marijuana really affects their lives.

Kim Norris (Robinson Secondary School, 12th grade) speaking:

Chris is one of those guest speakers who talked about how he got involved with drugs by starting out with marijuana and then increasing and increasing to greater heights.

Chris Leibowitz (Monitoring the Future, Guest Speaker) speaking:

My drug of choice was yes like I'll take it whatever it was laid out in front of me, but it started with using marijuana.

Everette Grayson (West Potomac High School, 11th grade) speaking:

He took a number of drugs and the number of times of going to jail actually changed his mind.

Chris Leibowitz (Monitoring the Future, Guest Speaker) speaking:

Yeah finally you know reality hit me and said what are you doing. It took a couple times to go into jail you know.

It took the last time I've been putting me in jail and the magistrate saying that not getting a bond today.

You keep doing the same thing every time let you out so you're just staying here.

Everette Grayson (West Potomac High School, 11th grade) speaking:

So I'm hoping I can get to my friends before that actually happened so they don't have to go through what he did.

Kim Norris (Robinson Secondary School, 12th grade) speaking:

It's very crucial in everyone's life to hear somebody talk about their life influences and experiences and I really do think that his talk was very motivating and it really opened a lot of doors.

Patrick Healy (Gonzaga High School, 12th grade) speaking:

Well you have to be direct and lot of kids don't know of what they're doing in terms of drugs and they're a little bit scared so if they know more about the side effects and know more about what other people are going through. It's not only them. Knowledge is power in that sense.

Mary Hill (West Potomac High School, 11th grade) speaking:

This information can help people just know the effects of marijuana and drug use and it, just by knowing the facts they're gonna be a lot less likely to hurt themselves.