A new study says marijuana use among adolescents is on the rise and teens are less concerned about the drug’s harmfulness.
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug among teens and adults in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And while recent surveys show a “promising decline” in teens’ use of most illicit substances including a decline in marijuana use among some age groups, marijuana use among teens overall has been relatively stable, the institute reports.
But concerns about teens using marijuana may be growing as more states legalize the drug for medicinal or recreational use.
A new study from the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program found an increase in teen marijuana use in Washington state following the legalization of weed for recreational use in 2012.
The same study also found a “significantly higher-than-average drop in the ‘perception of harmfulness,’ which is a measure of how teens view the dangers of marijuana use,” Fox Business reports.
In states where marijuana is illegal, teens had an average drop of about five percent in their perception of harm. But in Washington, the perception of harm fell by 14 to 16 percent, the study says.
Overall marijuana use went up by two percent among eighth graders and four percent among 10th graders in Washington state, while states without legalization saw one percent declines in use, according to the report.
Other studies show similar results in areas that have legalized pot. For example, teens who live in states where medical marijuana is legal report higher use of marijuana edibles, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“Among 12th graders reporting marijuana use in the past year, 40.2 percent consumed marijuana in food in states with medical marijuana laws compared to 28.1 percent in states without such laws,” one report shares.
But the research isn’t completely clear. The UC Davis study also looked at Colorado, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012 just like Washington state, but found no significant changes in teens’ perception of harm or the percentage of teens who use the drug.
“Despite no significant change in teen perceptions or use, researchers have hypothesized that Colorado was more lenient regarding weed prior to its recreational legalization, therefore teens were far more inclined to use cannabis before it was legalized,” the Fox Business article states.
What parents should know
About 45 percent of teens in the U.S. will have tried marijuana at least once by the time they graduate high school, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Parents should educate themselves on the topic and talk openly with their kids about the risks.
Parents can also check out Metro Parent’s recent article on what parents should know about teenage marijuana use.