Majority of High School Seniors Do Not view Regular Marijuana Use as Harmful 

An annual survey on use of and attitudes toward illegal substances shows that the percentage of high school students who see great risk from being regular marijuana users has dropped significantly in the past decade. The survey is conducted among eighth-, 10th-, and 12th-graders across the U.S. This year’s survey shows that 39.5 percent of 12th graders view regular marijuana use as harmful, down from a rate of 44.1 percent last year, and much lower than rates from the last two decades.

“This is not just an issue of increased daily use,” says Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a division of the National Institutes of Health which funded the survey. “It is important to remember that over the past two decades, levels of THC — the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — has gone up a great deal, from 3.75 percent in 1995 to an average of 15 percent in today’s marijuana cigarettes. Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago.”

Among the key findings of the survey:

  • Nearly 23 percent of seniors say they smoked marijuana in the month prior to the survey, and just over 36 percent say they smoked it during the past year
  • Among 10th graders, 4 percent say they use marijuana daily, with 18 percent reporting past month use and 29.8 percent reporting use in the previous year.
  • More than 12 percent of eighth graders say they used marijuana in the past year.

In 2012, the survey added questions about where students get marijuana. In the last two years, 34 percent of 12th graders who used marijuana and lived in states with medical marijuana laws responded to the survey by saying that one of the ways they get marijuana is through someone else’s medical marijuana prescription. More than 6 percent said they get it with their own prescription. The survey investigators say they will continue to explore the link between state laws and the accessibility of marijuana for teens.

The survey also included questions about use of other illegal drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Use of many illegal drugs including cocaine and heroin were lower in 2013 than in previous years and alcohol use and cigarette smoking continues to decline among high school students although increases in other tobacco products such as hookah were seen in survey responses this year.

The survey, called Monitoring the Future, which first began in 1975, this year collected responses from over 40, 000  students from 389 public and private schools, and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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