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New York, U.S.A. – New, nationally projectable survey results released by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and MetLife Foundation found that past-month marijuana use – particularly heavy use – has increased significantly among U.S. high school students since 2008.
The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, sponsored by MetLife Foundation, found that 9% of teens (nearly 1.5 million) smoked marijuana heavily at least 20 times. Overall, past-month heavy marijuana use is up 80% among U.S. teens since 2008.
Past-month use is up 42% (up from 19% in 2008 to 27% in 2011, which translates to about 4 million teens), while past-year use is up 26% (up from 31% in 2008 to 39% in 2011, which translates to about 6 million teens). Lifetime use is up 21% (up from 39% in 2008 to 47% in 2011, which translates to nearly 8 million teens).
This marks an upward trend in teen marijuana use over the past three years. The last time marijuana use was this widespread among teens was in 1998 when past month use of marijuana was at 27%.
“These findings are deeply disturbing as the increases we’re seeing in heavy, regular marijuana use among high school students can spell real trouble for these teens later on,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
“Heavy use of marijuana – particularly beginning in adolescence – brings the risk of serious problems and our data show it is linked to involvement with alcohol and other drugs as well. Kids who begin using drugs or alcohol as teenagers are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders when compared to those who start using after the teenage years.”
Teen Marijuana Use Has Become a Normalized Behaviour
Teens now report seeing more of their peers smoking marijuana and only 26% agree with the statement, “in my school, most teens don’t smoke marijuana” (down from 37% in 2008). Also, 71% of teens say they have friends who use marijuana regularly (up from 64 percent in 2008).
Social disapproval of marijuana among teens remained the same, with 61% of teens saying they disapprove of their peers using marijuana. (About 41% say they ‘strongly disapprove’). The PATS data also found an erosion of anti-marijuana attitudes among teens, with only about half of teens (51%) saying they see “great risk” in using marijuana, down significantly from 61% in 2005.
“We have also seen a considerable decline over the past five years in the proportion of teens seeing great risk associated with marijuana use,” says Professor Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the nationwide Monitoring the Future study conducted at the University of Michigan. “We believe that this decline in perceived risk has played an important role in the increases in teen use of marijuana, as it has done in the past. The fact that perceived risk is still falling portends a further increase in use.”
As teen drug use takes a turn for the worse, a heavier burden is placed on the shoulders of parents to play a more active role in protecting their kids from the health risks posed by drug and alcohol abuse.
The removal of critical pieces of our national prevention infrastructure across the country – The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, which was highly focused on educating youth about the dangers of teen marijuana use, and the elimination of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program – left a gaping hole where drug and alcohol education resources should be.
“The latest findings showing an increase in marijuana use among teens is unsettling and should serve as a wake-up call to everyone in a position to prevent unhealthy behavior,” said Dennis White, President and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “While it may be difficult to clearly understand just how dangerous marijuana use can be for teens, it is imperative that we all pay attention to the warning signs and intervene anyway we can. Early intervention is critical to helping prevent teens from drug abuse and addiction.”