December 16, 2014 / 10:54 PM / in 3 years

U.S. teens' use of alcohol, cigarettes at 40-year low, study finds

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fewer U.S. 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 on Tuesday.

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 health 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.

Those surveyed also gave mixed reports about the abuse of prescription drugs. While the teens reported using less of the narcotic painkiller OxyContin, use of stimulants Ritalin and Adderall remained steady. Both those drugs are used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Marijuana, which has been stubbornly popular among the age group, saw its first marginal decline in use after five years of increases.

About 5.8 percent of high school seniors in 2014 reported being a daily or near-daily marijuana user, down from 6.5 percent the previous year.

Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney

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