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Teenagers Are Smoking And Drinking Less, But They Have A New Favorite Drug


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist


"We also observed a significant increase in youth abstaining from substance use altogether," the researcher noted. astarot/Shutterstock

Gone are the days of smoking cigarettes in bathroom stalls and fake IDs. Young people appear to be turning their back on alcohol and cigarettes for their first dabble with drugs, according to a new study looking at the ever-shifting culture of drug use. In fact, there’s a huge rise in kids abstaining from drugs altogether. Kids today, eh?

New research, published in the journal Prevention Science, by the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has shown that young people aged 12 to 21 years old now tend to experiment at later ages with alcohol and cigarettes. Instead, more young people are using marijuana as their first drug of choice.


Between 2004 and 2014, 275,500 nationally-representative individuals were quizzed about their drug use and when they first tried different substances. In 2004, they found that 21 percent of young people’s first experience with drugs was smoking cigarettes. Ten years on, that figure was low as 9 percent. Alternatively, at least 8 percent of participants reported in 2014 that marijuana was the first drug they ever used, almost double the number (4.8 percent) in 2004.

"We also observed a significant increase in youth abstaining from substance use altogether, which rose from 36 percent to 46 percent, and therefore, it is unclear the degree to which increases in those initiating marijuana first could be due to youth abstaining or delaying cigarettes," study author Brian Fairman of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development said in a statement


While the overall decline in drug use is positive, the researchers argue that the rise in early marijuana use is a worrying find because youths who use marijuana first are more likely to become heavy users later in life. Earlier use was even associated with the development of a cannabis use disorder.

"To the degree these trends continue and greater numbers of youth start with marijuana as their first drug, there may be an increasing need for public interventions and treatment services for marijuana-related problems," added Fairman.


In terms of “harder” illicit drugs, many commentators have noted that millennials and “Generation Z” are far less interested in intoxicants of all varieties. One study found that substance use disorders for those aged 12-17 declined between 2003 and 2014 by an astonishing 49 percent.

As if that wasn’t enough, another study from earlier this month found that millennials are also losing their virginities at a later age, with one in eight people remaining a virgin until the age of 26.

Well, that’s something to remember next time you read an article about narcissistic, lazy millennials wasting their money on avocados.


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