Jun 28th, 2023

The percentage of adolescents reporting substance use in 2022 largely held steady after significantly declining in 2021, according to the latest results from the Monitoring the Future survey of substance use behaviors and related attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders in the U.S. (NIH National Institute of Drug Abuse).

Still, it's important to be aware of how much substance abuse impacts teenagers in our communities.

Data reported in 2022 show:

  • Nicotine Vaping. 12% of 8th graders, 21% of 10th graders, and 27% of 12th graders report vaping nicotine in the past year.
  • Cannabis. 8% of 8th graders, 20% of 10th graders, and 31% of 12th graders report cannabis use in the past year.
  • Alcohol. 15% of 8th graders, 31% of 10th graders, and 52% of 12th graders report alcohol use in the past year.
  • Non-Cannabis Illicit Drugs. 5% of 8th graders, 6% of 10th graders, and 8% of 12th graders report any illicit drug use other than marijuana in the past year.
  • Non-Heroin Narcotics. 2% of 12th graders report use of narcotics other than heroin (including Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, etc.), within the past year.

“The proliferation of fentanyl in the drug supply is of enormous concern. Though the data indicate that drug use is not becoming more common among young people than it has been in the past, the tragic increase in overdose deaths among this population suggest that drug use is becoming more dangerous than ever before... It is absolutely crucial to educate young people that pills purchased via social media, given to someone by a friend, or obtained from an unknown source may contain deadly fentanyl.”
-Dr. Volkow, NIH

Helping Parents Help Their Teens

The Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center wants to provide parents in our community tools to help them discuss the dangers of substance use with their child, as well as empower them to recognize signs of risky behavior.

We work with Addiction is Real to introduce Hidden In Plain Sight (HIPS) events in our community. Through interactive demonstrations, HIPS is an opportunity to explore the environment of a teenager and learn to spot signs of possible substance use and risky behavior. Parents who attend a HIPS event leave with an understanding of the importance of substance abuse, and are equipped with actionable prevention strategies and critical knowledge pertaining to adolescent drug & alcohol use.

Below, are just some of the lessons learned through the HIPS interactive, simulated presentations.


Unlike regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes don’t have a strong smell, so it’s much easier for kids to use them in secret in locations throughout the school, home, and community. The kid-friendly packaging and flavors of JUUL and other popular vape brands make vaping look fun, so even kids who wouldn’t try cigarettes may be tempted to purchase them. Teens often think that vaping isn’t dangerous and it is the healthier alternative to smoking, however, this is not correct.

E-cigarettes contain a lot of nicotine, which is very addictive. Getting addicted to nicotine can make it harder for teenagers to focus and concentrate. E-cigarettes also contain chemicals that could cause cancer, and there are many reports of serious lung problems connected to vaping. Additionally, vaping can make teenagers more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes or consuming other drugs.

Gas Station Dope

Products such as Tianeptine, Za Za, Delta 8, Delta 9 are drugs that, when taken in large doses, can mimic the effects of opioids. These substances are inexpensive, marketed to children and adults as “dietary supplements”, and are not regulated by the FDA. They are often sold next to potentiator O.T.C. drugs that increase the potency of the stimulant. These substances are highly addictive and users build up a tolerance and find themselves having to consume more of the products to get high.

Marketing to Kids

The bright colored, whimsical and fruity flavors of some substances are marketed to appeal to children and they don’t have to be 18 to purchase these products. Once out of their original packaging, it can be hard to distinguish between these products and everyday O.T.C. meds/candy. Because they are legal mood-altering substances, many current school policies do not address them.

Talk to Your Kids

It is never too early to talk to your children about alcohol and other drugs. Children as young as nine years old already start viewing alcohol in a more positive way, and approximately 3,300 kids as young as 12 try marijuana each day. Additionally, about five in 10 kids as young as 12 obtain prescription pain relievers for nonmedical purposes. If parents don’t talk about the risks of underage drinking and substance use, their kids might not see any harm in trying alcohol and other substances. The earlier you start talking, the better.

The more parents are empowered with information and tools to help effective and ongoing conversations with their child about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, the better equipped they are to keep their teenagers safe.

Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH), Addiction is Real, Nolan Group Media, NPR, American Lung Association, and tallcopsaystop.com