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Marijuana use among teens rises, national survey finds

December 19, 2012|By Rosie Mestel
  • Marijuana use is up among teens, and they also are less inclined to believe that smoking pot is harmful, according to the latest Monitoring the Future survey of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders.
Marijuana use is up among teens, and they also are less inclined to believe… (Ed Andrieski / Associated…)

More adolescents are using pot and they increasingly believe that the drug is benign. Those are the findings from the latest annual survey of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders put out each year by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Among other things, the Monitoring the Future survey found the following:

Among 12th-graders: 6.5% smoked marijuana daily. That’s an increase from five years ago, when that figure was 5.1%. “Nearly 23% said they smoked it in the month prior to the survey,” a press release about the study noted.

Among 10th-graders: 3.5% said they used pot daily and 17% reported use within the last month.

Among eighth-graders: 1.1% said they used pot daily and 6.5% said they used it in the last month.

Attitudes are shifting as well. Kids are less likely than in earlier years to think occasional or regular use of marijuana is harmful. The numbers: 41.7% of eighth-graders think occasional use is harmful; 66.9% think regular use is harmful.

Among 12th-graders, 20.6% think occasional use is harmful and 44.1% think regular use is harmful. Those percentages are the lowest since 1983 and 1979, respectively.

“We are increasingly concerned that regular or daily use of marijuana is robbing many young people of their potential to achieve and excel in school or other aspects of life,” said NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow, in a statement. She noted that THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in pot, “alters the ability of the hippocampus, a brain area related to learning and memory, to communicate effectively with other brain regions. In addition, we know from recent research that marijuana use that begins during adolescence can lower IQ and impair other measures of mental function into adulthood.”

Studies show that those who use pot early in life are more likely to become addicted to marijuana, she said.

The report found that use of other drugs was somewhat lower than in previous years. Ecstasy use in 12th graders, for example,  was at 3.8% versus 5.3% in 2011. Use of Vicodin, an opioid painkiller, has fallen some. But off-prescription use of Adderal, a drug prescribed for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is up — with most teens who use it recreationally reporting they get it from friends or family members.

Cigarette smoking and alcohol use have fallen also, according to the report.

The survey findings were based on interviews with 45,449 students in 395 public and private schools around the U.S. The NIDA website has a great infographic and a podcast with remarks from Volkow.

The Monitoring the Future report has been published annually since 1975. In the beginning, only 12th-graders were surveyed. Eighth- and 10th-graders were added in 1991.

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