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%.
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."
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.
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.