Survey finds use of vapor products up among Indiana teens

Perception of drug use among peers is much higher than reality, according to Indiana Youth Survey

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Nearly 30 percent of 12th-graders in Indiana report using electronic vapor products in the last month, according to the 28th annual Indiana Youth Survey. This is an increase of 45 percent over 2017 numbers.

The survey -- administered in early 2018 by the Institute for Research on Addictive Behavior, part of the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington -- reports that the rate of electronic vapor product use in the past 30 days for all students in seventh through 12th grade was 16.9 percent.

"We added questions about electronic vapor products to the survey in 2015 after an alarming and rapid increase in the number of youth using vapor products and e-cigarettes," said Ruth Gassman, executive director of the Institute for Research on Addictive Behavior. "Though we saw a decline last year, we were still concerned about the numbers of youth using vapor products. With this year's survey results, we confirm that our concern is well-founded and the use of these products among teens continues to be a public health issue."

The Indiana Youth Survey is administered to nearly 120,000 students in Grade 6 to 12 in 407 Indiana schools. Students are asked about their use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, their gambling behaviors, and risk and protective factors that may increase the likelihood of substance abuse.

In addition to electronic vapor products, the survey found 5.7 percent of students in seventh through 12th grade used cigarettes in the past 30 days, 3 percent used smokeless tobacco, 2.9 percent smoked cigars and 2.1 percent smoked a pipe.

For the first time this year, the survey questioned students about their perception of drug and alcohol use among their peers. Students were asked how many times in the past 30 days they thought their peers had used alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, prescription painkillers, prescription stimulants or prescription sedatives.

"We found that students greatly overestimate their peers' use of drugs and alcohol," Gassman said. "For example, 45 percent of students thought most of their peers were using prescription painkillers, when the actual reported use is just 1.6 percent. Almost 60 percent of students believed their peers were smoking cigarettes, when only 5.6 percent of students reported cigarette smoking in the past 30 days."

The survey's findings also address prescription drug use, heroin use, marijuana and synthetic marijuana use and gambling, as well as risky behaviors including riding in an automobile with someone under the influence.

The 2018 Indiana Youth Survey was coordinated by the Institute for Research on Addictive Behavior and funded by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration's Division of Mental Health and Addiction. The Indiana Youth Survey will next be administered in 2020.

Highlights from the 2018 Indiana Youth Survey

The Institute for Research on Addictive Behavior, part of the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, has released the 28th Indiana Youth Survey. Data gathered from the 2018 survey include electronic vapor product and tobacco use, perception of peer drug use, prescription drug use, heroin use, marijuana and synthetic marijuana use, gambling, and risky behaviors including riding in an automobile with someone under the influence.

Students took the survey in early 2018 and were asked about use over the past month.

  • Electronic vapor products

    After a decline in use of electronic vapor products in 2017, this year's survey shows a 45 percent increase in the number of seniors using these products, from 19.7 percent to 28.6 percent. The use rate for all students in seventh through 12th grade was 16.9 percent, and 5.7 percent reported they smoked cigarettes.

  • Perception of peer drug use and perception of harm

    For the first time, students were asked about their perceptions of drug use among their peers. The results show that students' perceptions greatly overestimated the prevalence of drug use by their peers. Results include:

    • 45 percent of students thought that most students in their school were using prescription painkillers, when only 1.6 percent reported using them.
    • 60 percent of students thought that most students in their school were smoking cigarettes when only 5.6 percent of students reported smoking cigarettes.
    • 67.1 percent of students thought that most students in their school were drinking alcohol when only 16.8 percent of students reported drinking alcohol.
  • Use of prescription drugs

    This year's survey broke the area of prescription drug use into three categories: painkillers, such as OxyContin or Vicodin; stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin; and sedatives such as Xanax or Valium. A very low percentage of students reported misuse of prescription drugs, with more than 97 percent claiming no use at all.

    For those reporting use of prescription drugs without a prescription, usage rates varied by grade:

    • Prescription opioids -- A low of 0.8 percent among seventh-graders to a high of 2.3 percent among 11th-graders.
    • Prescription stimulants -- A low of 0.5 percent among seventh-graders to a high of 2.1 percent among 10th- and 12th-graders.
    • Prescription sedatives -- A low of 0.6 percent among seventh-graders to a high of 2.3 percent among 10th- and 11th-graders.
  • Heroin

    Though the opioid epidemic has brought increased attention to heroin in recent years, rate of use by Indiana youth has remained steady. In the 2018 survey, no grade reported a monthly use rate higher than 0.2 percent.

  • Marijuana and synthetic marijuana

    Monthly use of marijuana is more prevalent than use of synthetic marijuana, which is chemical-grade synthetic cannabinoids. High school seniors reported a 17.3 percent use rate of marijuana, but only reported 0.1 percent use of synthetic cannabinoids. Marijuana use has declined 1 to 2 percent for most grades since the 2017 survey.

  • Gambling

    When asked about gambling behavior over the past 12 months, eighth-graders gambled -- defined as wagering something of value -- at a higher frequency for most categories than students of other grades. Nearly 19 percent of eighth-graders reported gambling on sports, compared to 16.6 percent of 12th-graders.

  • Parents deployed or incarcerated

    The absence of a parent puts youth at an increased risk for substance abuse. Children whose parents are deployed may feel more stress and worry about their parent's safety, while a child who has an incarcerated parent may face stigma from friends and classmates.

    On this year's survey, 14 percent of sixth-graders reported they had parents who had served in a war zone, while 5.7 percent of 12th-graders reported the same. Almost a quarter of the sixth-graders surveyed reported having a parent who had been incarcerated, while 17.6 percent of seniors reported having a parent who has served time in jail.

  • Riding in an automobile with people under the influence

    In addition to looking at an individual's behavior, the survey also screens for systemic public health concerns. When asked if they have ridden in a car driven by someone under the influence, 28.5 percent of students said they had ridden in a car or drove a car while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Media Contact

Carole Nowicke

Institute for Research on Addictive Behavior

Phone: 812-855-1237

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Email: cnowicke@indiana.edu

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