Teen Drinking & Smoking at or Near “Historic Lows”; Drug Use Declining

The kids today! When I was a lad…

Every generation of old people gripes about the youngin’s, how they are lazier today and don’t know how good they got it.

Of course that’s rubbish, and it’s been rubbish for most of the history of elder complaints of the younger generation. Does Socrates sound familiar when he says this?–

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.” 

Well, when I was a wee whippersnapper, children were not as smart, had worse health, lived shorter lives, were less literate and numerate, lived in a country that had just legalized racial equality but was still hostile to gays. Oh, how I pine for the golden days of yore!

In yet another demonstration of progress, researchers find that kids today smoke and drink less. The also don’t do drugs as much (though marijuana use is increasing; more on that below).

“Every year, the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey measures drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and related attitudes among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders.” The MTF is done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Many of the results of the 2013 MTF were quite heartening.

Drug trends

However, the 2013 MTF did note that marijuana use is increasing. This isn’t surprising as marijuana is now legal in some states and will likely be more and more accepted, both by the law and society. Therefore I am not optimistic about future trends in teen marijuana use. Also, the abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines is quite troubling. Ironically, it’s the adults that fuel these trends, not our miscreant children. As prescription drug use increases by parents, abuse increases with children stealing these medications for “recreational use.” And the grown-ups in state houses relaxing marijuana laws are a primary cause of teens thinking marijuana is neither harmful–the governor signed the bill into law, right?–or illegal.

Nonetheless, historically low levels of tobacco and alcohol use among teens is quite heartening.

2013: LGBT Movement’s Best Year Ever

Here in Washington, 2013 was bad. Even I, a persistent optimist, was deeply put off by the dysfunction.

On the other hand (and you knew some positivity was coming), something great happened in the public sphere. The dysfunction may have been fueled by small, powerful, and well-funded groups that have obstructionist representatives in the House and Senate. But our divided (as in “separation of powers,” not Red v. Blue), federalist government means the courts and people can act to make change when the leaders cannot lead. Change did happen in 2013, and much faster than many optimists would have expected.

Last year was a big one for LGBT equality. The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT equality organization in the US, posted a “Best of 2013” article on its website. It highlighted the signature achievements from last year:

*Nine more states have legalized marriage for everyone, which now means a total 17 allow everyone to marry.

*The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a blatantly anti-LGBT law, was challenged in courts. Several rulings have stated that DOMA’s definition of marriage (in Section 3) is unconstitutional.

*The Windsor Decision: The Obama Administration’s interpretation of the Windsor Decision has meant that an unprecedented number of gay couples have access to federal employee benefits.

*There are at least 30 cases challenging DOMA

*Fifty-five Senators support marriage equality.

*The Senate passed the Employment Non Descrimination Act.

*And the ascension of Pope Francis has changed the tone toward LGBTs in the largest Christian sect in the world. As he said,  “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?'”