A study from the National Institutes of Health shows that teenagers’ perception of the dangers of marijuana use is at its lowest levels in decades. Some researchers believe that this changes is a reflection of changing views about marijuana among adults, as indicated by the recent passage of pro-marijuana legislation in Colorado and Washington.
“We are increasingly concerned that regular or daily use of marijuana is robbing many young people of their potential to achieve and excel in school or other aspects of life,” said 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.”
The NIDA “Monitoring the Future” survey is based on questions answered about drug use by more than 46,000 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students from nearly 400 schools.
The annual survey found that 41.7 eighth graders believe occasional pot use is harmful and 66.9 percent believe regular use is dangerous. These are the lowest rates for the age group since the NIDA added eighth graders to the study in 1991.
High school seniors had diminished views of the risks of marijuana. A little over 20 percent of 12 graders felt occasional use was harmful and about 44 percent believed that regular use was detrimental. The percentage of seniors who believed regular use was harmful is at its lowest rate since 1979.
Though perceptions about marijuana are changing in teens, it hasn’t translated into more teens using drugs. Marijuana use among high school seniors is leveling off after four years of increasing use. In 2012, 36 percent of the senior surveyed said they smoked marijuana in the previous year. However, the share of seniors who use pot daily rose to 6.5 percent from 5.1 percent last year.
“There isn’t much evidence for increasing use this year,” Lloyd Johnston, a research professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who led the study, said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Use of a great many drugs are holding steady.”
Marijuana usage in states where the drug has been legalized for recreational use is expected to increase. Especially since the President Obama indicated the federal government had “bigger fish to fry” than targeting users in states that have passed marijuana laws in conflict with the federal ban.
“You’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. And as it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions,” President Obama said in an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters. “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.”
2012 Monitoring the Future Survey
Since 1975 the MTF survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide. Survey participants report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. Overall, 45,449 students from 395 public and private schools participated in this year’s Monitoring the Future survey. The survey is funded by the NIDA, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and conducted by the University of Michigan.