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Are smartphones driving teenagers away from drugs?

IANS | New York |

Adolescents in the US may be using less drugs because they are constantly stimulated and entertained by their computers and smartphones, experts say.

"There is a possibility that smartphones are contributing to a decline in drug use among teenagers," Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse — a part of National Institutes of Health — in Maryland, US was quoted as saying to 

According to a survey, 'Monitoring the Future — an annual US government-funded report measuring drug use by teenagers', the use of illicit drugs in 2016 other than marijuana was at the lowest level in the 40-year history of the project for 8th, 10th and 12th graders.

"This period was also notable because declining use patterns were cutting across groups — boys and girls, public and private school, not driven by one particular demographic," Volkow said.

However, the correlation does not mean that one phenomenon is causing the other, but the interactive media may play similar impulses as drug experimentation, including sensation-seeking and the desire for independence.

Or it might be that the gadgets simply absorb a lot of time that could be used for other pursuits, including partying, the survey said.

Thus Volkow described the interactive media as "an alternative reinforcer" to drugs, adding that "teens can get literally high when playing these games".

The findings of the survey showed that the use of marijuana is down over the past decade for eighth and 10th graders even as social acceptability is up. 

Although marijuana use has risen among 12th graders, the use of cocaine, hallucinogens, ecstasy and crack are all down, too, while LSD use has remained steady.

Even as heroin use has become an epidemic among adults in some communities, it has fallen among high schoolers over the past decade.