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'Heavy' Marijuana Use by Teens Surges

By May 2, 2012

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The 23rd Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) is out and it's not good news for parents who hope their children make it through high school without doing drugs. The latest survey indicates that smoking weed is becoming more acceptable behavior among teens and heavy marijuana use is now at disturbingly high levels.

Heavy use of marijuana - smoking 20 or more times a month - has increased 80 percent since 2008, the study shows.

The annual study, conducted by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and MetLife Foundation, also found that prescription drug use by teens may be leveling off, but it is still a disturbing levels.

Half of All Teens Have Smoked Pot

Some key findings on marijuana use include:

  • Almost half of all teens (47%) have used marijuana, up 21% since 2008.
  • Two out of every five teens (39%) have tried marijuana in the past year, up 31%.
  • Past-month use has increased 42% from 19% in 2008 to 27% in 2011.
  • Heavy monthly use (20 or more times) is up 80% from 5% to 9%.
The study revealed that the increase in marijuana use is due to the increased use among teenage boys. Teen males reported past-month use up 38% and heavy monthly use up 57%.

Becoming More Acceptable Behavior

Another concern for parents is the shift in high school students' attitude about marijuana use. According to the PATS data:

  • Only 26% agree that "in my school, most teens don't smoke marijuana."
  • 71% say they have friends who smoke regularly.
  • Only 41% say they "strongly disapprove" of their friends' smoking.
  • Only 51% say that using marijuana causes them a "great risk."
Leads to Other Drug Use?

Although many marijuana smokers, including some who post comments on this website, claim that marijuana is not a gateway drug, the PATS survey found that among teens who do smoke weed regularly are:

  • 30 times more likely to use cocaine or crack.
  • 20 times more likely to use ecstasy.
  • 15 times more likely to abuse pain pills.
  • 14 times more likely to abuse over-the-counter medication.

Real Trouble for the Future

From 1998 through 2008, teen marijuana use showed a steady decline in past PATS surveys. The new report shows a steady upward trend in teen marijuana use for the past three years. Teen marijuana use is now back to the level at which it peaked in 1998.

"These findings are deeply disturbing as the increases we're seeing in heavy, regular marijuana use among high school students can spell real trouble for these teens later on," said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. "Heavy use of marijuana - particularly beginning in adolescence - brings the risk of serious problems and our data show it is linked to involvement with alcohol and other drugs as well. Kids who begin using drugs or alcohol as teenagers are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders when compared to those who start using after the teenage years."

The complete report is available online in PDF format.

Source: The Partnership at Drugfree.org. "The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study 2011." 2 May 2012.

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May 2, 2012 at 3:58 am
(1) Zanne Robinson says:

Marijuana is defenitely a gaeway drug!! I learnt the hard way! However recovery is now a way of life for me. Total abstinance is the answer.

May 2, 2012 at 4:35 pm
(2) aaron says:

It’s only a gateway for addictive personalities and those that let it be. What is more of a gateway than marijuana is it being in the black market itself. If they didn’t go to their pot dealer and get offered something harder, a lot of kids probably wouldn’t. That along with a full proper education about drugs would help.

I’ve smoked marijuana for medical purposes for years and never felt the urge to go onto something stronger because of it. I feel more at risk when offered a prescription, that on the other hand is filled with bad experiences

August 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm
(3) Barnsie says:

Acting like you are the “smartest person in the room,” or an “expert” on drugs & alcohol — based on your experience as an avid user who can quite anytime but doesn’t want to — only makes you a moron. Odds are, you do not now carry a PhD, MD, NP, RN or MS, or any other professional title that is achieved from years of learning and research. Odd are your research — beyond the feeling immediate effect that putting THC and alcohol into your body produces — has been limited to minutes, hours, or maybe even a day of “research.” Likely from sources that are hardly independent, and largely support your position. If this describes you, then you have two choices: stop being an idiot, and examine critically how getting drunk or high improves your “whole” life; or keep being an idiot and watch as aoda issues sap potential and real joy from your life. Wishing you well -

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