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More students think marijuana is OK
More than a third of high school seniors surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the last year.
December 18th, 2013
12:02 AM ET

More students think marijuana is OK

Most teens may be "Above the Influence" when it comes to cocaine and cigarettes, but marijuana use is growing among students.

Sixty percent of U.S. high school seniors do not see regular marijuana use as harmful to their health, according to this year's Monitoring the Future survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. More than a third of the seniors surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the past 12 months.

Each year, the Monitoring the Future survey asks eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders about their drug and alcohol use and their attitudes toward illegal substances. For 2013, more than 41,000 students from 389 U.S. public and private schools participated.

Only 2.4% of high school seniors reported using marijuana daily in 1993; this year that percentage nearly tripled to 6.5 %. And it's not just the older students more than 12% of the eighth-graders surveyed said they had used marijuana.

"It is important to remember that over the past two decades, levels of THC the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana have gone up a great deal," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a statement. "Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago. ... The children whose experimentation leads to regular use are setting themselves up for declines in IQ and diminished ability for success in life."

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Why I changed my mind on weed

Teens also continue to abuse prescription medications such as Adderall, which is commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Vicodin. But while alcohol use is still high close to 40% of seniors reported drinking in the past month it's been on a steady decline since its peak in 1997.

There's more good news: Use of K2 or Spice, also called synthetic marijuana, dropped 3.4 percentage points among high school seniors, and less than 1% of students in all three grades reported using bath salts, a family of drugs that contain synthetic chemicals.

"Synthetic drugs are particularly dangerous because their ingredients are unknown, they have not been tested for safety and their ever-changing ingredients can be unusually powerful," said lead researcher Lloyd Johnston. "Users really don't know what they are getting."

Use of inhalants, cocaine and heroin are also on the decline. Four percent of seniors reported using Ecstasy, or MDMA, which is "considerably lower" than in 2001, when 9.2% reported using the synthetic drug, the report authors said.

Survey results for the teens' tobacco use seem to reflect the decline seen in adults. For the first time, less than 10% of the students in all three grades reported smoking cigarettes in the past month. But teens aren't giving up nicotine just yet. More than 21% of seniors acknowledged smoking tobacco with a hookah this year, compared with 18.3% in 2012.

Nictotine in e-cigs, tobacco linked to heart disease

The survey results must be considered cautiously as the participants may have been afraid to report their true use of illegal substances, or may have put down false information.

The team of researchers who led the study will be exploring the link between state laws and students' marijuana use going forward, the report authors said. Many of the teens who used marijuana in states with medical marijuana laws said they obtained the drugs through their own or someone else's prescription.


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  3. radiomankc

    If we are to believe the media, marijuana's been growing in use since the early 1970s. Nobody's ever died of it. I remember in 1970, our entire battalion of soldiers overseas got busted with the evil army dogs which alerted on virtually every locker in a 3 story barracks down the street from the Army's major commcenter. The cops called the colonel down there to discuss it. He told them he wasn't going to shut down the country's communications just because all the Top Secret/Crypto draftee soldiers had been smoking dope. The cops left. Then we had a few 'educational seminars' where the Army doctors admitted that pot was not as dangerous as our addition to beer every night. Now... nearly 40 years later, we're still talking about pot.

    If high school kids use has been going up all these years, you'd think every one in America was smoking it all day and all night. This isn't news. Time to quit the handwringing. The only people being advantaged are the cops, the lawyers and the prison guards. And kids all over america are having their lives ruined with criminal records.

    This is insanity.

    December 19, 2013 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Freedom Fighter

    US CDC Figures directly from the CDC dot gov web site on numbers of deaths per year in the USA :
    Prescription Drugs: 237,485
    Tobacco: 81,323
    Alcohol: 39,199
    Marijuana 0, none, not a single death in all medical history
    Sited direct from CDC dot gov. Stop the lies and Legalize!

    December 20, 2013 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hatrev

      Let me reply to all you misguided and ignorant hemp users who think that the smoking of cannabis is harmless and benign.
      Far from it. I have seen a on a daily basis what damage is inflicted on an adolescent brain by the use of marijuana.
      One of the more common symptoms in association with this drug are paranoia, reduction in IQ levels and most disturbing the onset of psychotic tendencies like schizophrenia.
      So stop spouting the, disproved, mantra that this hemp is harmless, far from it.
      To come to your point of no one having died from its use, indirectly people have through being stoned out of their minds in deadly road accidents.

      December 31, 2013 at 05:25 | Report abuse |
  5. Daniel

    I would love a joint right now.

    December 20, 2013 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. spencer

    When you look at Wikipedia on phsycoactive drugs, you will find cannabis is less harmful and less addictive than alcohol and tobacco.
    Neither or those has medical benefits.

    December 22, 2013 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.