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Survey Shows Youth Pot Use Decreases

More Youngsters Realize Risks of Marijuana

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Updated November 07, 2004

The 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated a five percent decline in the number of American youth between the ages of 12 and 17 who have ever used marijuana.

Current use of marijuana plummeted nearly 30 percent among 12 and 13 year olds, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report.

Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug, with 14.6 million current users (6.2 percent of the population). The study shows that there were an estimated 2.6 million new marijuana users in 2002. About two thirds of these new users were under age 18, and about half were female.

An important positive change detected by the survey was an increase in the perception of risk in using marijuana once a month or more frequently. Both youth and young adults reported a significant increase in their awareness of the risks of smoking marijuana.

Particularly striking was the 20 percent decline between 2002 and 2003 in the number of youth that were "heavy users" of marijuana (those smoking either daily or 20 or more days per month). Perceived availability of the drug also declined significantly among youth.

The results of this year's survey demonstrate that anti-drug messages inside and outside of school, participation in religious and other activities, parental disapproval of substance use and positive attitudes about school are linked to lower rates of youth marijuana use.

Parents Play Important Role

For example, those exposed to anti-drug messages outside of school had rates of current marijuana use that were 25 percent lower than those not reporting such exposure (7.5 percent vs. 10.0 percent). Youth who believe that their parents would "strongly disapprove" of marijuana had use rates fully 80 percent lower than those who reported that their parents would not "strongly disapprove" (5.4 percent vs. 28.7 percent).

"The prevention efforts of millions of parents, educators, and community leaders are working. Young people are getting the message that marijuana, which is substantially more potent today than it was 20 years ago, is a dangerous drug, and they are increasingly staying away from it," said John Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "These new data reaffirm the critical roles parents and anti-drug advertising play in keeping our children safer, healthier, and drug-free."

Findings from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health are available online.

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