CDC survey: Why are more teens smoking marijuana?

Credit: Morguefile

A new report shows more teenagers are using marijuana on a regular basis that researchers say is a cause for concern. According to this year's survey, most teens don’t think smoking pot is harmful.

Results of the 2012 “Monitoring the Future survey” found that 6.5 percent of 8th, 10th and 12th graders smoke marijuana daily, which is an increase from 5.1 percent reported in 2007.

This year’s survey included 45,449 students from 395 public and private schools. The study was conducted by the University of Michigan.

According to the results, 23 percent of teens said they had used marijuana in the month prior to the survey. Thirty-six percent reported smoking pot within the previous year.

More than 11 percent of students in the 8th grade reported they used pot within the last year. Twenty-eight percent of 10th grade students reported smoking marijuana within the past year; 3.5% answered that they smoke daily.

The concern is that most teenagers don’t see marijuana as harmful. Researchers say smoking pot can lead to poor academic achievement and rob adolescents of other aspects of their life. Viewing pot as harmless means teen marijuana use will likely escalate.

NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. "THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, 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."

Volkow points out that studies clearly show teen marijuana use can interfere with “cognitive abilities, social life, and career status” in addition to mental health. She says marijuana can become addictive and the risk increases with earlier use in life.

Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy suggested in a press release that parents and other adults can help curb escalating use of marijuana among adolescents with open dialogue.

The study also looked at teen use of tobacco and alcohol and prescription drugs. Vicodin, an opiate pain killer was used for non-medical issues by 7.5 percent of teens surveyed, which is a ‘modest decline’ from 10 percent found in 2010.

Tobacco use also declined from previous surveys, though non-cigarette tobacco products are still a concern, said Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the CDC media release.

Illicit drug use declined among teens, with the exception of marijuana. The reason reported is because adolescents don’t think pot is harmful. But the finding doesn't address other underlying factors that might contribute to higher use than in the past.  There has also been an increase in  stimulants taken by teens.  Adderral use is up from 5.4% in 2009 to 7.5 percent in 2012. The drug is used to treat attention deficit disorder and is also a cause of concern.

December, 2012