Marijuana use holds steady among U.S. teens
December 19th, 2012
05:17 PM ET

Marijuana use holds steady among U.S. teens

Marijuana use is holding steady among eighth, 10th- and 12th-graders in the United States and tobacco smoking rates remain low.

Those are some of the results published in the annual Monitoring the Future study, a survey of more than 45,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders from 395 public and private schools.  It was released Wednesday.

Each year, the survey gathers information from teens about their use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, as well as asking them questions regarding their attitudes about the drugs.

This year, 6.5% of 12th-graders said they smoke marijuana daily. That’s slightly down from 2011, when 6.6% said they smoked it daily.

Teens’ perception about the harmfulness of using marijuana was down, which may signal future increases in marijuana use, according to the study’s principal investigator, Lloyd Johnston.

Overall, 41.7% of eighth-graders perceive occasional marijuana use as harmful and 66.9% see regular use as harmful.  As teens get older, their perception of harm decreases, the survey showed, with only 20.6% of 12th-graders seeing regular use as harmful.

“Marijuana use that begins in adolescence increases the risk they will become addicted to the drug," says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a statement. "The risk of addiction goes from about 1 in 11 overall to about 1 in 6 for those who start using in their teens, and even higher among daily smokers.”

New this year were questions about “bath salts," products that contain designer drugs with stimulant effects. Very few students reported having used bath salts in the previous twelve months: 0.8%, 0.6%, and 1.3% for grades eight, 10, and 12, respectively.

The use of synthetic marijuana products remained stable, with 11.3% of 12th-graders reporting having used them. Other than alcohol and tobacco, this is the second most widely used drug among 10th- and 12th-graders after marijuana. The products are generally sold on the Internet or over the counter, with names such as K-2 and spice. They are produced by spraying herbs or plant materials with the chemical elements found in marijuana.

Use of other illicit drugs showed no significant change between 2011 and 2012. Those drugs include cocaine, crack, heroin, hallucinogens, amphetamines, sedatives, tranquilizers or narcotics taken without medical supervision. Only salvia, ecstacy and using heroin without a needle showed significant declines.

Adderall is one drug that showed some sign of increasing, but only among 12th graders, and not very significantly. Its use increased 1.1% from 2011 to 2012.

Alcohol use, which declined in 2011, showed an increase among 12th-graders. Twenty-four percent of high school seniors reported binge drinking two weeks prior to the survey, an increase of 2%.

“The nation’s teenage drug problems are far from disappearing,” concluded Johnston. He noted that new drugs are appearing on the horizon, products that include synthetic marijuana and “bath salts."

According to Johnson "synthetic drugs like these are particularly dangerous, because they have unknown, untested, and ever-changing ingredients that can be unusually powerful, leading to severe consequences. Users really don’t know what they are getting, and as the thousands of calls to the nations’s poison control centers relating to these drugs indicate, they may be in for a very unpleasant surprise.”

The Monitoring the Future survey was sponsored by NIDA and the University of Michigan, which designed and conducted the study.

soundoff (169 Responses)
  1. Chang

    Legal in Washington State...Residents haven't turned Zombie yet. Sure the Potato Chips sales skyrocketed. Each their own...Tax it, Zero Tolerance behind the wheel, check back in a year, then move on to another state...

    December 20, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sundancer 650

      I am an alcoholic in recovery. I believe statistics show that alcohol causes the most drug-related deaths/overdoses as well as collateral damage (innocent people killed in drunk driving accidents, crimes committed by enraged drunks). It costs the US millions every year. It is taxed and has zero tolerance yet continues to wreak havoc on all.

      Marijuana is not my thing, but studies have proven it is much safer than alcohol and actually has medicinal purposes. If I was allowed to go kill myself with a bottle during my active addiction, why does the US continue to turn a blind eye to the problems w/alcohol yet be so unwilling to budge regarding pot? I've never seen a person go crazy while high, nor have I ever seen an overdose. Food for thought.

      December 20, 2012 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
    • Pablo

      Marijuana smoking increases your risk of psychiatric illness. It increases the progression of psychiatric disorders and risk for certain mental illnesses increases.

      My wife works in a psych ward for a few years and many of the patients had faster progression of their disease when they were using drugs. Marijuana in particular affected younger men more than others according to the charts. Other drugs some listed as unknown because the patients were NOT sure what they ingested also increased mental illness issues.

      December 31, 2012 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
    • buschman1982

      In response to Pablo, those people also probably did other substances as well. Don't start mixing the words pot and mental illness because thats how false information starts. Hundreds of millions of people have mental illness all around the world. With or without pot, you dont know any of their stories. Many of those people smoke pot to help them get over the problems of everyday life. Pot doesnt take away the problems but it makes you ok with those problems and makes them a little easier to deal with. Many people who end up in psyciatric wards already have mental problems or are on other drugs, legal or illegal. I myself attempted to kill myself a couple months ago and was put in a psyciatric ward for 5 days. I was put on Zoloft 2 weeks before that and one of the side effects was suicidal feelings and thoughts. For me, those feelings and thoughts turned into actions and my plans, thank god, failed. I am now a statistic, not a good one but i am and its all because of these synthetic drugs the government thinks actually helps more then hurts. I got off those pills and smoked some pot and now I'm enjoying life. I'm not crazy. Humans go through stages throughout life, good and bad. We will all have some kind of mental illness hit us in our life. Don't start blaming a living breathing organism for our mental problems. Making a living breathing organism illegal, who has the mental illness?

      January 1, 2013 at 09:55 | Report abuse |
  2. Maddog

    can anyone out there hook me up with some good smoke?

    December 20, 2012 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Spencer

    Synthetic weed has more users than real weed, however synthetic weed is as dangerous as heroine

    December 20, 2012 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Spencer

      And real weed hasn't killed a single person in the history of planet Earth

      December 20, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
  4. deemarie

    Adolescent Pot Use Leaves Lasting Mental Deficits; Developing Brain Susceptible to Lasting Damage from Exposure to Marijuana

    Aug. 27, 2012 — The persistent, dependent use of marijuana before age 18 has been shown to cause lasting harm to a person's intelligence, attention and memory, according to an international research team.

    Individuals who started using cannabis in adolescence and used it for years afterward showed an average decline in IQ of 8 points when their age 13 and age 38 IQ tests were compared. Quitting pot did not appear to reverse the loss either

    December 20, 2012 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Spencer

      Yes pre-adult use is a bad idea, still, synthetic canniboids are worse and are being used by more high school students, the focus should be on educating the students about the effects of the drugs so they can make an educated decsion.

      December 20, 2012 at 15:50 | Report abuse |
    • jb

      why is it that 18 is the magic number? why not 17 and 8 months? or 22 years old and 44 days?

      this is part of the fallacy that makes people untrustworthy of anti-drug advocates. i'm not for legalization but it certainly hurts our argument when people make up false facts. please use honesty and intelligence when formulating an argument.

      January 2, 2013 at 12:35 | Report abuse |
  5. Disgusted

    So all these people claim to say that "Marijuana is bad, dangerous, is a gateway drug, and a poison." Do your research first. If anything ALCOHOL should be made illegal and marijuana legal. Ethanol, when introduced into the bloodstream is 100% A TOXIN. Marijuana, and specifically THC in this instance, only affects the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain, most common with a part of the pleasure/reward system in the brain. You still say, "well, marijuana has carcinogens when smoked." Who says you have to smoke it? There are many ways to use marijuana in less impactful methods towards the body that combustion.

    Marijuana as a gateway drug. The reason why marijuana is called a "gateway drug" is because not because it makes you crave harder drugs, but because the ILLEGALITY of the substance creates a gateway, in which the dealer can sell you other harder drugs because a dealer only cares about making money. If you want to stop marijuana as a gateway drug, LEGALIZE IT.

    December 20, 2012 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. sfr53

    Why is it always the idiots who report on the addictive properties of marijuana?
    Everyone I've spoken with can take it or leave it – there are no harmful side effects.
    Like taking a mild sedative with medicinal properties for healing inflammation.
    Not like alcohol, barbituates, heroine or anything else that drive people to commit horrendous crimes and commit suicide.
    Wake up all you so called 'experts' and try it yourself – Stop reporting on heresay and contrived reports from 100 years ago.

    December 20, 2012 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pablo

      Not true. People with emotional issues cannot leave it. THC has been found to work on the memory center of the brain, suppressing memory. It is now thought that people with traumatic life experiences in which they want to suppress memories or memory formation can become addicted to marijuana. A life of abuse can lead to a life of addiction.

      December 31, 2012 at 18:39 | Report abuse |
  7. derp

    So that means I would have a 138 IQ and spent a great deal of time real up tight. If that were fact the trade off was worth the less stress can you say cortisol shortens life expectancy.
    The other point is we evolved with these plants as partners why else do we respond to them and have receptors for them. In trade we have carried there genetic material to the ends of the earth. They are our friends.

    December 20, 2012 at 16:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Jrad

    It's hard to give credence to results from a 'self-reported' study.

    December 20, 2012 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. ishiibrad

    2 different families I saw growing up.....1st dad was drinking most the time. I saw the police at the door more then I remember,broken windows,broken bones,smashed teeth and 2 runaway kids and mother.
    2nd dad smoked pot most of the time.I saw laughing,Christmas & Halloween parties,videos together with ice cream.woodworking projects and fishing.
    Oh yeah,1st dad their was no birthday or Christmas parties !

    December 20, 2012 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. kirk

    Marijuana use that begins in adolescence increases the risk they will become addicted to the drug," says Dr. Nora Volkow, . And if you eat potatoes you will become a Mr. Potato head. Is this proof that she is spewing or just what she heard from the reefer madness film. I know its warm up there Nora but get your head out of your but and look at credible evidence.

    December 21, 2012 at 06:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Craig Newman

    A few points..
    I can't argue whether Pot is addictive or not.. Im not a scientist. I have never been really hard either for or against it until this last year when our 24 year old came home to live with us. I knew he smoked weed, but didn't know that he was doing it literally 8 times a day. They effect? Slow speech, Hard core paranoia, not interested in anything, crazy thought patterns about life and people. Pot may not be a gateway drug, but I have a few questions for those in favor of its use..
    1. Wouldn't Getting high be everyone's desire? Wouldn't everyone enjoy being high? if so , should everyone on earth stay high? Maybe rather than coping with lifes troubles, we should stay high all day, and cope with being high.
    2. Do we really need substances to get high? I mean, shouldn't we create a realm where we find happiness with REAL things?
    3. If a person has issues, real or imagined, should they just get high to FEEL BETTER. Or should they do things that really fix the problems so they can REALLY FEEL BETTER about a life that REALLY IS BETTER.

    In my personal observation, (and ive observed at least 30 close friends etc over the years) It doesnt seem that pot is a offers great hope to mankind. (as far as getting high) There is a reason that its called DOPE.. most that use weed THINK they are brilliant.. but to the real world, they are dopy. Just my observation. If I needed weed for pain etc.. Id be all for it.. There are legitimate uses for it, and it should be available for that. but just getting high? Is that really what we want for our upcoming generation? Do we want fake high or real high?

    December 21, 2012 at 06:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Walter Woden

      Suppose it was legal everywhere, and as an alternative to alcohol, say half of the current drinking population put down the bottole and became pot heads.

      Would that really be so bad?

      January 2, 2013 at 16:55 | Report abuse |
  12. t

    america is doomed by the ignorant.. other countries where pot is legal don't have any problems

    December 22, 2012 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pablo

      Sure. They let the addicts kill themselves slowly in many European countries. Africa has an aid epidemic fueled by poverty and drugs. Sure.... Real enlightened.

      Drugs KILL, and results in other issues. If Tobacco is deadly, drugs are 100x more so.

      December 31, 2012 at 18:40 | Report abuse |
    • Walter Woden

      @Pablo: "Africa has an aid epidemic fueled by poverty and drugs" – please, oh enlightened one, tell us how drugs play into the aids epidemic in Africa, and tell us how it's relevant to the Marijuana discussion here.
      " They let the addicts kill themselves slowly in many European countries."
      Smoking Marijuana in and of itself will not kill you, and has never killed anyone.

      "Drugs KILL, and results in other issues."
      Smoking Marijuana in and of itself will not kill you, and has never killed anyone. Fact.

      "If Tobacco is deadly, drugs are 100x more so."
      Tobacco is a drug, and it's designed to kill you. Regardless of that, your generalization of all drugs as being 100x deadlier than tobacco is ignorant and stupid.

      January 2, 2013 at 17:00 | Report abuse |
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    Reblogged this on cherylshuman.

    December 27, 2012 at 02:21 | Report abuse | Reply
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  17. dazzy

    pot is just a time waster similar to video games and cable tv. we should prohibit pot the day we outlaw these other distractions.

    January 2, 2013 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Jorge

    Just as well that they start early, with the WONDERFUL state of affairs that the young will inherit from their self-important, greed-infested, know-it-all parents and grandparents in this country, they will need all the ganja they can find for therapeutic purposes when they grow up.

    January 14, 2013 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. draganakislovski

    Spiritual research indicates that 96% of the causes of addictions are due to negative energies or departed ancestors. The seeds of addictions are introduced in the womb itself by ghosts. Due to the spiritual nature of the cause of addictions, only spiritual healing can successfully alleviate addiction. A three-step spiritual treatment program has been suggested that will ensure minimal withdrawal symptoms. http://www.spiritualresearchfoundation.org/articles/id/spiritualresearch/mentalhealth/addiction

    March 11, 2013 at 05:58 | Report abuse | Reply
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  21. Test Subject 10999453

    From my personal experience, i can give an educated user's perspective on some of the things addressed in mostly the comments, and the article as well. Marijuana DOES affect your memory, but it does't make you brain dead. The main reason that people don't recall things that occurred while they were high is because they were enjoying themselves and didn't really care about what would happen around them. The heavy daily users that claim they can function fine or even better while high are for the most part lairs (i have seen some exceptions though) As for addiction, the biggest reason that people will get addicted to other drugs is because of withdrawl effects. There are virtually none for marijuana. I have gone through times when i either have no responsibilities or want to get over emotional distress and use daily for over a month then quit cold turkey with no feelings of withdrawl other than normal grumpiness of being back in everyday life. As of right now i haven't smoked since 4/20, been offered a few times but have no problem turning it down because i know that i need to pass a drug test and get into a steady work schedule in the next two months. After that, i may or may not use occasionally on some weekends. It's the people who don't understand that life has times to work and times to play that give a bad rep to users. It drives me crazy when i hear people say "i need bud". Because they don't, they just want it because it gets them out of their responsibilities. These are the tyoes of people who are lazy in the first place and truly don't want to progress themselves with or without weed. I believe that marijuana should be nationally legalized, taxed, and regulated in the same way as alcohol.

    May 2, 2013 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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