December 15th, 2010
09:01 AM ET
Marijuana use among high school-aged kids is on the rise, according to a new study, and has overtaken cigarette smoking among 12th-graders specifically.
The Monitoring the Future Survey – compiled from 46,000 anonymous questionnaires given to teens – found that 8% of eighth-graders say they've smoked marijuana within the past 30 days, up from 6.5% just last year. More than 16.7% of 10th-graders and 21.4% of 12th graders say they've smoked pot within the last month as well.
Only 19.2% of 12th-graders are smoking cigarettes in any given month.
"We've seen marijuana use rising among teens for the last several years, but the rates rose significantly in 2010," said Lloyd Johnston, a distinguished research professor at the University of Michigan, and the lead study researcher.
Johnston and his team also found that more than 6% of high school seniors say they're smoking pot on a daily basis.
While they do not have concrete reasons as to why marijuana use has increased, Johnston says he believes it may be related to increased public discussion about the drug's safety.
"There's a good chance that the widespread discussion of the medical marijuana issue, and more recent discussions about fully legalizing the drug may be conveying the notion that it's not as dangerous," he said.
In addition to their findings on marijuana, the researchers found ecstasy use was on the rise – up a half percent in both 10th and 12th-graders since the 2009 survey.
"Ecstasy fell in popularity in the early 2000's, and remained at quite low levels," Johnston said. "It's still not at high levels, but it's clear this drug is making a comeback."
Over the 36-year history of the survey, Johnston says that as the perceived risks of taking a drug like ecstasy decrease, its use tends to increase; and the trends seem to be cyclical.
"These current high school kids were so young when the last ecstasy epidemic occurred, so they forget risks," Johnston said. "I believe there is a 'generational forgetting' of the risks of these drugs."
Use of other illicit drugs such as crystal meth and cocaine and binge drinking rates continue to decline.
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