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Indiana youth smoking and drinking hit a 30-year low

High school seniors’ use of vaping products decreased, from 23 percent in 2020 to 14.8 percent in 2022.
WFIU/WTIU
High school seniors’ use of vaping products decreased, from 23 percent in 2020 to 14.8 percent in 2022.

Youth cigarette, alcohol and marijuana use saw the lowest rates in 30 years, according to a new survey from Indiana University.

The 2022 Indiana Youth Survey is administered by Prevention Insights at the IU School of Public Health. More than 90,000 students across the state in sixth through 12th grades participated.

Alcohol use among 12th graders in the past 30 days has dropped nearly 40 percentage points since 1991, the survey found. It also decreased over the past two years: 28.5 percent of high school seniors reported drinking in the 30 days prior to taking the survey in 2020 compared to 19.9 percent this year.

Cigarette use among 11th graders saw a 37.3 percentage point decrease from a prevalence rate of 40.1 percent in 1996. And marijuana use among 10th graders decreased 16.5 percentage points from a high of 24.9 percent in 1996.

High school seniors’ use of vaping products also decreased, from 23 percent in 2020 to 14.8 percent in 2022.

Prevention Insights Executive Director Ruth Gassman said the low rates could be because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It could be that there was a decrease in the use of these drugs because students weren't as available to get together with their drug-using friends at school,” Gassman said.

Gassman also said because some parents continue to work from home, young people could have less unsupervised time to use drugs.

“So these are some speculations, but we really don't have proof of either of those,” Gassman said.

And it’s too soon to know if the decrease in substance use will continue in the future. The survey also found an increase in youth depression and other negative mental health factors from 2020 to 2022.

Prevention Insight assistant research scientist Mikyoung Jun said youth substance use is also decreasing nationally.

“We compare our data with the national data produced by the University of Michigan in the Monitoring the Future survey,” Kim said. “In Indiana, the trends mirror the national trend for most of the drugs and most of the grade levels.”

The Monitoring the Future survey found a 25 percent drop in substance use among teens from 2020 to 2021.

The Indiana Youth Survey will be administered again in 2024.

Contact reporter Darian Benson at dbenson@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @helloimdarian.

Copyright 2022 WFYI Public Media. To see more, visit WFYI Public Media.

Darian Benson is a reporter based at WFYI in Indianapolis. An Indy native, she is eager to report on public health in her hometown. Darian graduated with a journalism degree from Indiana Unviersity- Purdue University Indianapolis. Previously, she covered city and public policy for WFYI and statewide public health for Indiana Public Broadcasting.