Researchers think the decline in drug use among teenagers was correlated to an increase in smartphone and tablet entertainment, The New York Times reported Monday. Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Nora Volkow planned to research the possibility within the next few months and organize a team of scholars to discuss results. 

"This correlation does not mean that one phenomenon is causing the other, but scientists say interactive media appears to play to similar impulses as drug experimentation, including sensation-seeking and the desire for independence," the article read. 

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"Monitoring the Future," a survey funded by the government every year to measure drug use among teenagers, sparked Dr. Volkow's interest in the new study. The report found that illicit drugs, with an exception of marijuana, was at an all-time low in the 40-year history of the surveys for eighth, 10th and 12th graders. The survey also revealed cocaine, hallucinogens, ecstasy and crack were also at a low, while marijuana has risen among high school seniors and decreased for eighth and 10th graders. The use of LSD remained at a constant rate.

Dr. Volkow said those results may directly correlate with the increase of smartphone and tablet usage because it reaches all groups of kids --"boys and girls, public and private school, not driven by one particular demographic," she said, and added that interactive media has similar effects to drugs because "teens can get literally high when playing these games," The New York Times reported. 

Statista predicted that smartphone usage was expected to increase from 1.5 billion in 2014 to 2.5 billion in 2019, and over 36 percent of the world was projected to have a smartphone by 2018.

Smartphones can provide an escape from uncomfortable situations teenagers may find themselves in, the article reported. "You can sit around and look like you're doing something, even if you're not doing something, like just surfing the web," Elliott said. "I've done that before with a group sitting around a circle passing a bong or a joint. And I'll sit away from the circle texting someone." 

School girls A group of Catholic school girls look at their phones in New York Sept. 24, 2015. Photo: Reuters

The New York Times concluded that more research would need to be done on the subject because experts said there was little factual evidence to fully support the correlation between drug use and smartphones, although "you'd have to be an idiot not to think about it," James Anthony, an expert on drug-use behavior and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Michigan State University said in the article.