While access to marijuana and other illicit substances may have been hindered during the social distancing period of the COVID-19 pandemic,  the rate at which teenagers continued to use alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs as of 2021 remained relatively high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report, 2011–2021, a greater proportion of female than male high school students acknowledged smoking marijuana (18% to 14%, respectively) or drinking alcohol (27% vs 19%) in the previous 30 days. Perhaps more alarming, given what we know about the consequences, 15% of females and 10% of males say they had “ever misused prescription opioids” as of 2021. The report notes that substance use among teenagers correlates to risky sexual behavior, poor mental health outcomes, and suicidality, while also increasing risk for experiencing violence. Be alert for signs of substance abuse in younger patients, and take the opportunity to ask discreetly about their consumption habits.

New Data on Teenage Substance Abuse Are Out, and the Numbers May Surprise You