Teen marijuana use has dropped in the United States, Canada and most European countries, researchers found.
Researchers led by Emmanuel Kuntsche, Ph.D., of the Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drugs Problems analyzed data from the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children study, a survey of adolescents in 2002 and again in 2006. Teens were asked about their marijuana use and the number of evenings per week they usually spent going out with their friends.
Significant Declines in Marijuana Use
"The more frequently adolescents reported going out with their friends in the evenings, the more likely they were to report using cannabis," the authors said in a news release. "This link was consistent for boys and girls and across survey years. Across countries, changes in the frequency of evenings spent out were strongly linked to changes in cannabis use."
Between 2002 and 2006, marijuana use decreased in most of the countries, with the most significant declines reported in England, Portugal, Switzerland, Slovenia and Canada. Increases were observed only in Estonia, Lithuania, and Malta and among Russian girls.
In the U.S., 24% of boys and girls reported marijuana use in 2006, a decline of 12 percent for boys and 2 percent for girls. In Canada, 30% of boys and 28% of girls smoked pot, a decrease of 13% for boys and 10% for girls.
Less Face-to-Face Interaction
The researchers believe that most adolescents start marijuana use because their friends use it. The more teens go out with others their age, the more likely the availability of marijuana increases and the social influence to use it increases.
Prevention efforts aimed at teens after the alarming 2002 numbers were released may have had a factor in the decrease over the next four years, but the authors believe new forms of teen communication - including email and texting - that reduced the need for face-to-face communication also played a role.
The study was published in the February 2009 edition of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.