About 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoked marijuana daily in 2013, compared with 6 percent in 2003, as attitudes toward the drug’s danger relax, according to a U.S. government report.
About 40 percent of 12th-graders view regular marijuana use as harmful, a decrease from 44.1 percent last year, according to a Monitoring the Future report from the National Institutes of Health. As more states ease marijuana laws, the change in attitudes may increase future use, the authors said.
Pot remained the most popular illicit drug, and one-third of high school seniors reported smoking it in the last year. The percentage of adolescents who reported using cigarettes, alcohol, Ecstasy, inhalants, synthetic cannabinoids, bath salts, and the painkiller Vicodin declined this year. Cocaine and heroin use didn’t change significantly, though both drugs are “at historic lows,” according to a statement from the NIH.
“As the attitudes toward use soften, we tend to see the rates of marijuana use go up,” said Wilson Compton, the deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a telephone interview. “We’re much less concerned about the use in adults than the use in children.”
Last year, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis for those 21 and older. Medical marijuana is legal in 20 U.S. states including California. To track how these legal changes may affect teenagers, the drug abuse institute has given out eight grants to get investigators into the field quickly, Compton said.
In 2012, the survey added questions about where teenagers get marijuana. Using data from 2012 and 2013, the investigators found that one-third of the 12th-graders using pot obtained the drug with someone else’s prescription. Another 6 percent of teens got it using their own prescription.
“That teaches us that policy changes will lead to changes in availability,” Compton said. “I’d like to see data for several years before we understand all the implications.”
The study also looked at alcohol, showing that 22 percent of high school seniors engaged in binge drinking two weeks before the survey, a slight decrease from last year’s study. Binge drinking was defined as having five or more drinks in a row. Total alcohol use continued to decline, with 40 percent reporting use within a month of the survey from its peak of more than half of teenagers reporting use in 1997.
More than 41,000 students from almost 400 public schools completed the Monitoring the Future survey. The study began in 1975 by asking questions of high school seniors. In 1991, it included younger students as well.
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