Spike in Marijuana Use Among Teens Reverses Previous Trend
For a number of years teen use of marijuana had been in decline but a recent study shows that the trend is now tracking in the other direction. Some parents may recall public service ads from 10 to 20 years ago based on the “this is your brain….this is your brain on drugs” tagline. Those ads were the product of a non-profit group named The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
The group has been surveying kids on drug use for a number of years and this year’s results (based on 2011 survey results) have just been released. Survey findings turned out to be a good news/bad news proposition.
The good news is that prescription drug abuse appears to be dipping among high school aged teens. The bad news is that marijuana use seems to be climbing in that population. According to the Partnership survey, one out of ten teenagers is smoking marijuana at least 20 times a month. Hard drug use appears to be holding steady.
The MetLife Foundation-sponsored survey polled over 3,000 high school teens about drug use. Between March and June of 2011 the teens were invited to complete questionnaires at school with total anonymity. The findings give insight into current drug use habits, parent and teen attitudes and demographic trends.
The 2011 survey indicates that while parents appear to take a hard line on drugs such as cocaine and heroin (drugs which frighten parents), they have a far more laissez-faire approach when it comes to marijuana and prescription drug use. In those cases parents seem to neither feel that risks are so great nor the stakes as high. As a consequence, hard drug use (e.g. methamphetamine, cocaine) has leveled out in the past few years and kids have turned in greater numbers instead to marijuana and prescription drugs.
Kids who reported using marijuana within the past month was at 19 percent in 2008. The 2011 figure was 27 percent, a shocking rise. The number of teens who admitted smoking marijuana 20 plus times per month was five percent in 2008, but was nine percent in this most recent survey. At that rate, a million and a half teens are using marijuana on an almost daily basis. In addition to reversing a previous trend away from marijuana use, the problem is disconcerting because that level of use makes kids two times more likely to use harder drugs like ecstasy and crack cocaine.
The Partnership survey further revealed that:
- Prescription drug abuse was 15 percent in 2009, 14 percent in 2010, and 10 percent in 2011
- Latino teens are more at risk for hard drug abuse (50 percent) than either African American youth (42 percent) or white teens (39 percent).
These results mirror a recent National Institute on Drug Abuse study which also showed a recent rise in marijuana use among teens.