More students think marijuana is OK

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Most teens may be "Above the Influence" when it comes to cocaine and cigarettes, but marijuana use is growing among students.

Sixty percent of U.S. high school seniors do not see regular marijuana use as harmful to their health, according to this year's Monitoring the Future survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. More than a third of the seniors surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the past 12 months.

Each year, the Monitoring the Future survey asks eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders about their drug and alcohol use and their attitudes toward illegal substances. For 2013, more than 41,000 students from 389 U.S. public and private schools participated.

Only 2.4% of high school seniors reported using marijuana daily in 1993; this year that percentage nearly tripled -- to 6.5 %. And it's not just the older students -- more than 12% of the eighth-graders surveyed said they had used marijuana.

Gina Carbone of SMART Colorado said she has four boys and believes the mainstreaming of marijuana in Colorado makes it part of children's every day lives.

"The perception of risk and harm has gown down as the industry has come to Colorado and told everyone, including our kids, that this is an organic wellness product."

"It is important to remember that over the past two decades, levels of THC -- the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana -- have gone up a great deal," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a statement. "Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago. ... The children whose experimentation leads to regular use are setting themselves up for declines in IQ and diminished ability for success in life."

Teens also continue to abuse prescription medications such as Adderall, which is commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Vicodin. But while alcohol use is still high -- close to 40% of seniors reported drinking in the past month -- it's been on a steady decline since its peak in 1997.

There's more good news: Use of K2 or Spice, also called synthetic marijuana, dropped 3.4 percentage points among high school seniors, and less than 1% of students in all three grades reported using bath salts, a family of drugs that contain synthetic chemicals.

"Synthetic drugs are particularly dangerous because their ingredients are unknown, they have not been tested for safety and their ever-changing ingredients can be unusually powerful," said lead researcher Lloyd Johnston. "Users really don't know what they are getting."

Use of inhalants, cocaine and heroin are also on the decline. Four percent of seniors reported using Ecstasy, or MDMA, which is "considerably lower" than in 2001, when 9.2% reported using the synthetic drug, the report authors said.

Survey results for the teens' tobacco use seem to reflect the decline seen in adults. For the first time, less than 10% of the students in all three grades reported smoking cigarettes in the past month. But teens aren't giving up nicotine just yet. More than 21% of seniors acknowledged smoking tobacco with a hookah this year, compared with 18.3% in 2012.

The survey results must be considered cautiously as the participants may have been afraid to report their true use of illegal substances, or may have put down false information.

The team of researchers who led the study will be exploring the link between state laws and students' marijuana use going forward, the report authors said. Many of the teens who used marijuana in states with medical marijuana laws said they obtained the drugs through their own or someone else's prescription.

CNN contributed to this report.

12 comments

  • jdm

    Alex, it isn’t necessarily breaking news but what it does is expose the fact that marijuana isn’t a bad drug and alcohol is in fact much more worse that pot. It is positive exposure of that fact and informs the Citizens of this country that the laws need to be changed.

  • Billy Shark

    More teens using pot today just means more potential applicants in the government job pool tomorrow. Gotta find the dimwitted bureaucrats somewhere.

  • H town

    theres still 0 deaths of the cause of smoking mmj i think its better than Mc donalds a burger from there will cause you more damage

  • Travis

    I used to smoke weed in high school one thing I can say is the drug is not totally harmless. When used at a young age when your brain and process of thinking is not totally developed it can certainly put a strain on some people. It made me very lazy and honestly not even care about school or anything. All I wanted to do was smoke weed and hang out. Atthe same time i had friends that smoked and did well in school. It all depends on the person but to promote the use of pot for kids is something that should be prevented. I smoke weed every once in awhile now that I’m an adult its nice to chill out. But my friends who smoke daily, I can tell that they do. Low attention span tend to talk slow so on. It can hinder you anyone who says it can’t is so high off pot what they say has very little merit anyway. Very few people who smoke weed every single day are immune to changes. I could pick you out of a crowd with one conversation. I keep in contact with several friends from highschool in two separate states. I have lots of friends who smoked and still smoke daily. The ones who currently smoke daily are bums. Not one of them has a career they all have jobs with no security. Most of them are so lazy to get a real job they sell weed for income. I’m not anti weed like I said I smoke sometimes even to this day. But I think its very important to know that there is many roads a drug can take you. The one less traveled is the road of success.

  • MJ4ever

    Travis and S2, you guys needs to pull your head out of the sand and accept the fact the MJ is here to stay. S2, test scores have been dropping not because of the MJ, test scores have been dropping for decades. Take a look at how the govt. cut spending in our schools. But don’t be such a crybaby you have to bad mouth MJ. I think you both need a doobie to kill that bug up your a**.

  • Kevin Hunt

    For the government, marijuana prohibition is the gift that keeps on giving. It allows government officials to drag innocent citizens out of their cars and force them to submit to body cavity searches. It also allows them to spy on the populace without probable cause and seize cash without any proof of drug-related activity. It also employs legions of worthless bureaucrats like Nora Volklow who would be out of a job if hemp were regulated like alcohol.

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