Dr. Nora Volkow And Michael Botticelli Highlight The Good News Found In The 2015 MTF Survey

By John Lavitt 12/21/15

The results from the annual survey are in and they are mostly positive.

Teen Boy turning down drugs.

In a morning news conference that coincided with the official release of the Monitoring The Future (MTF) survey results, Dr. Nora Volkow, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Michael Botticelli, the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy emphasized the overall good news. For the most part, teen substance use continues to drop, including a continued decrease in the use of alcohol and cigarette by high school students. 

Highlighting our collective responsibility, ONDCP Director Michael Botticelli remarked:  

“We all recognize the impact of drug use on America. Too many of us have been touched by a life cut short by overdoses or a future cut down by substance-use dependence…. As the President has said, we’ve all got a role to play because these young people -- they remind us these are our kids, it’s not somebody’s kids, it’s our kids.”

Gathered annually by researchers at the University of Michigan for the past 41 years, the MTF results have given the federal government the ability to track trends in substance use among teenagers. Each year, a total of approximately 50,000 8th, 10th and 12th grade students are surveyed across the country, providing a statistically reliable picture of drug use and attitudes among American middle- and high-school students.

Pleased that the results showed a positive shift for the most vulnerable population in the country, Dr. Volkow said, “We are seeing overall significant decreases in most of the illegal drugs and all of the legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol, across 8th, 10th and 12th graders…. At the same time… the rate of some of these drugs, even tobacco and alcohol, are still unacceptably high, certainly those of marijuana.” 

Given a slight rise in marijuana use alongside a belief among an increasing number of teens that smoking marijuana is not harmful, The Fix asked what steps are being considered to address this problem. Director Botticelli responded, “I think all of us are significantly concerned about our inability to reduce underage marijuana use and particularly to push against some of the perceptions of risk, the declines in perception of risk, that we’re seeing as it relates to occasional marijuana use among youth.”

Dr. Volkow agreed with the need for new prevention efforts, “We should learn from those efforts, translating them not just into prescription opioids, but other drugs of abuse. As I mentioned, even though we do have very good indicators, rates of drug use among teenagers is still among some of the highest in the world.”

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.