By Derrick Stanley
According to new data released Thursday, high school students and young adults today are much less likely to use illicit drugs than their parents, except for marijuana.
The report comes after a four-decade long study of drug, tobacco, and alcohol use from the University of Michigan. The report shows that people in their 40s and 50s used far more drugs in their youth than people in their teens and 20s today.
"The proportion of Americans in their 40s and 50s who have experience with illicit drugs is quite shocking," says Lloyd Johnston, a research scientist at the University of Michigan and the lead investigator on the study. "It's a great majority."
Over 70 percent of people in their fifties have used illegal drugs, not counting marijuana. If marijuana is included that figure rises to about 85 percent.
Cigarette use is at an all-time low as well, with 20.5 percent of college students saying they smoked in 2015 compared to 44.5 percent in 1999.
"Maybe the most important of all is the decline in narcotic drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin and so forth," Johnston says. Use of prescription opioids by college students has dropped from 8.7 percent in 2003 to 3.3 percent in 2015. "That's despite the fact that we know from the news that the use and misuse of narcotic drugs is a growing problem in the country," Johnston says.