Teens are drinking and smoking less than they have in more than two decades

Marijuana and e-cigarette use has dropped, too

It's not news that many colleges and universities struggle against a party culture among students, which often includes underage drinking, recreational drug use, and smoking. 

But there is a bright spot: teen substance use has taken a nosedive in recent years. According to a new survey conducted at the University of Michigan, teen drug and alcohol use has fallen to levels unseen since the 1990's.

"Considerably fewer teens reported using any illicit drug other than marijuana in the prior 12 months—5%, 10%, and 14% in grades eight, 10 and 12, respectively—than at any time since 1991," the survey states. 

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To arrive at these findings, researchers asked roughly 50,000 high school students about their illicit substance use. Of students surveyed in 2016, only slightly more than 36% had consumed alcohol within the past year, marking a significant decline from the 67% who reported the same in 1991.

The same downward trend applies for cigarette use: This year, only 28% of 12th grade students surveyed reported smoking cigarettes, compared with 63% in 1991.

Despite concern over a rise in recreational marijuana use in light of new legalization, the survey also found rates of using that drug had declined; the percent of eighth and 10th graders who report having used marijuana at least once fell to 9.4% and 24%, respectively.

Twelfth graders are the only exception to the trend, as the share who have reported trying marijuana at least once has remained at a steady 36% since 2011.

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E-cigarette use has also declined, as students who reported using the devices within the last 30 days fell from an all-time high of 12.8% last year to 9.9% this year (Ingraham, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 12/13; Kaplan, Los Angeles Times, 12/12).

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