The shift was highlighted in a 2015 “Monitoring the Future” survey, which found teen use of pot has held steady in the last year even as abuse of most other drugs has declined among teens. At the same time, the survey indicates, teens are showing less concern about the dangers of marijuana use. The survey, published Wednesday by the National Institutes of Health, was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan.
“We are heartened to see that most illicit drug use is not increasing, non-medical use of prescription opioids is decreasing, and there is improvement in alcohol and cigarette use rates,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the NIH’s Institute of Drug Abuse, in a press release. “However, continued areas of concern are the high rate of daily marijuana smoking seen among high school students, because of marijuana’s potential deleterious effects on the developing brains of teenagers.”
Teens are laying off the “hard drugs,” such as heroin and ecstasy at encouraging rates, and abuse of prescription drugs designed to treat pain has declined from 10.5 percent in 2003 to 4.4 percent, according to the survey.
But while use of most drugs declined, teens kept using pot at a stable rate. Even more significantly, the survey found a shift in how teenagers view marijuana use.
Fewer teens reported they thought using weed was risky – 31.9 percent versus 36.1 percent in 2014, and 6 percent of twelfth graders smoke daily. This is in contrast to smoking tobacco, which teenagers now view with caution at increasingly high rates. Three-quarters of high school seniors said smoking a pack of cigarettes per day was harmful.
This shift in how risky teens think marijuana is occurring as more states debate further legalized marijuana use among adults. Four states have legalized marijuana completely, but 23 have legalized it with some restrictions. Teens may be taking their cue from state legislators who feel the drug is not “risky” enough to ban.
High School Seniors Now Prefer Marijuana to Cigarettes
Time 16 December 2015
More students in the 12th grade said they smoked pot every day, compared to those who smoke daily cigarettes, finds a new federal report. It’s the first time since the survey began in 1975 that daily marijuana use surpassed cigarettes.
The “Monitoring the Future” survey released on Wednesday shows that 6% of 12th graders used marijuana every day—about the same rate as last year—while 5.5% of seniors reported smoking cigarettes daily. (That’s a drop from 2014, when 6.7% of high school seniors smoked cigarettes every day.)
Their perceptions of pot also changed; fewer students think it’s dangerous. Almost 32% of seniors said they thought regular marijuana use could be harmful, compared to 36% who felt that way last year. “The sense that marijuana has medicinal purposes and that doctors are prescribing it creates a sense that this drug cannot be so harmful,” says Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health (the group that funded the research).
Volkow says she is surprised that marijuana rates didn’t rise from 2014, after the past year’s attitude and policy changes surrounding the legalization of marijuana. “All of those factors have led many to predict that there would be an increase in the pattern of use of marijuana among teenagers, and we are not seeing it,” she says. Still, it was one of the only substances in the report that did not decline in usage.