SAMHSA Raises Questions About Use Of Alcohol, Nicotine And Marijuana Among Youth

By John Lavitt 11/24/15

Why has teen drug and alcohol use failed to decline?

SAMHSA Raises Questions About Use Of Alcohol, Nicotine And Marijuana Among Youth

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) 2014 Behavioral Health Barometer, for the first time in a decade, the number of teenagers to initiate use of alcohol and nicotine failed to drop in 2014.

The numbers remained steadfast from 2013, and this lack of prevention progress is related to the increased use of marijuana by teenagers. A major issue is a shift in perception in regards to the dangers of the drug. In 2014, youths aged 12 to 17, young adults aged 18 to 25, and adults aged 26 or older were less likely to perceive great risk of harm from monthly or weekly marijuana use.

The Behavioral Health Barometer is a series of state and national reports that provide a snapshot of the state of behavioral health in the nation, particularly in regards to substance abuse and mental health issues. By creating a controlled set of substance use and mental health indicators, the regional barometer provides information for drug studies and academic research across the nation.

SAMHSA sponsors the main data collection efforts through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services. In addition, data also is collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (the Monitoring the Future survey). Moreover, data reported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on the use of mental health and substance use treatment services by Medicare enrollees is employed as well.

These behavioral health barometers divide existing SAMHSA data into separate reports for each of the 10 HHS regions of the United States. Each report uses data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), collected annually. Topics addressed in the reports include youth substance use, youth mental health and treatment, adult mental health and treatment, and adult substance use and treatment.

Given the shift revealed in young people towards nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana, there is no question that new prevention efforts are needed, targeted at both schools and homes. The SAMHSA Barometer remains the best gauge for statistical changes in national drug use and abuse. A bigger question is once the data is collected, how can it be effectively used in prevention efforts?

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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.