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Fewer US teens are experimenting with hard drugs

Use of MDMA, heroin, and amphetamines by junior and high school students dropped in 2015, following a longterm pattern of decline.

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    Junior Cody Conley talks with friends in the cafeteria before classes begin at Roosevelt High School, in Seattle, Nov. 23. Junior and high school students experimented less with drugs like MDMA, amphetamines, and heroin in 2015, according to the Monitoring the Future survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and released Wednesday.
    Elaine Thompson/AP/File
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Teenage use of several of types of drugs dropped in 2015 though marijuana use remained the same, according to a recent survey.

Alcohol and cigarette use are at their lowest level since the study was launched, according to Monitoring the Future, an organization that has been tracking substance abuse trends since 1975.

The report was compiled by University of Michigan researchers at the Institute for Social Research and was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Monitoring the Future uses survey information from teenagers attending 400 junior or senior high schools in 48 states.

The study found the use of illegal drugs like heroin, amphetamines, and MDMA, which is sometimes referred to as "ecstasy" or "Molly," also dropped this year, the group said in a statement released on Wednesday.

While marijuana use equaled last year’s numbers, the number of students who reported drinking alcohol in 2015 declined, following a longterm pattern. The researchers said 17 percent of high school students in their senior year reported binge drinking, while 11 percent of tenth-graders and 5 percent of eighth-graders did.

Lloyd Johnston, the study's lead investigator, says the downward trend for alcohol began a decade ago when the percentage of students who reported binge drinking was double the 2015 figures of 11 percent. Drinking overall has dropped too, he said.

“The recent peak rate in annual prevalence of alcohol use was in 1997, at 61 percent for the three grades combined,” he said in a press release. “Since then, there has been a fairly steady downward march in alcohol use among adolescents. The rate has fallen by about a third, to 40 percent.”

Professor Johnston says part of the reason for the decline may be because alcohol is more difficult for underage drinkers to obtain, though not impossible.

He also noted that drug use tends rise and fall in a cyclical pattern.

“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,” Johnston said.

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