August 17, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 297 — Substance use among Indiana youth

The past two years have seen some of the largest decreases in substance use among Indiana youth in over 30 years, according to a recurring survey by Indiana University researchers. The 2022 Indiana Youth Survey is administered by Prevention Insights, a research arm of the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. The survey also found that fewer Indiana youth in grades 6 through 12 reported substance use in the past month in 2022 compared to 2020. The numbers are based upon responses from over 90,000 Indiana students at 323 schools and represent some of the largest decreases in substance use since the survey began in 1991. These findings are in line with similar decreases nationwide. Among substances with the lowest prevalence rates in 30 years were cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana. For instance, alcohol use among 12th-graders in the 30 days prior to taking the survey was 39.8 percentage points lower than in 1991, when it was 59.7%. Additionally, cigarette use among 11th-graders was down 37.3 percentage points from a high of 40.1% in 1996, and marijuana use among 10th-graders was down 16.5 percentage points from a high of 24.9% in 1996. Lead Researcher Ruth Gassman says she suspects these data reflect unexpected consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted adolescents' daily lives and may have prevented youth from accessing substances. Additional highlights from the survey include that alcohol remained the most common substance used by Indiana youth, but the percentages of 12th-graders who reported drinking alcohol in the 30 days prior to taking the survey dropped from 28.5% in 2020 to 19.9% in 2022. The survey also found that electronic vapor products were the second-most-used substance by Indiana teens. The percentages of 12th-graders who reported using vaping products during the past 30 days decreased from 23% in 2020 to 14.8% in 2022. Public Health Researcher Jon Agley says the declines in substance use are positive news, but it’s unclear whether these trends will continue. Since youth often use substances with peers and outside the home, Agley says it’s important to learn whether these are long-term shifts or more of a “blip” on the radar. The survey also asked students about their mental health, finding that students across all grade levels reported moderate increases in feelings of depression and other negative mental health indicators compared to 2020.