Daily Marijuana Use Overtakes Cigarette Use for 12th Graders

Dr. Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA, said "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, and the high rates of overall tobacco products and nicotine-containing e-cigarettes usage."

NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reported Dec. 16 that the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey showed for the first time that daily marijuana use exceeds daily cigarette use among 12th graders in the United States. Daily marijuana use for this group remained relatively stable at 6 percent, versus 5.5 percent who reported daily cigarette smoking (down from 6.7 percent in 2014). NIDA said the survey showed decreasing use of cigarettes, alcohol, prescription opioid pain relievers, and "synthetic marijuana."

The survey measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, funded by NIDA, and has been conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor since 1975.

"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 D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA. "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, and the high rates of overall tobacco products and nicotine-containing e-cigarettes usage."

"This year's Monitoring the Future data continue the promising trends from last year with declining rates of adolescent substance use and support the value of evidence-based prevention, treatment, and recovery," said National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli. "Efforts to prevent drug use from ever starting are particularly important as we work to reduce the rising number of drug overdoses across the country. I encourage parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors to have a conversation with the young people in their lives about making the healthy decisions that will keep them on a path toward a successful future."

Among high school seniors, 23.6 percent reported using an illicit drug in the past month, with 7.6 percent reporting they used an illicit drug other than marijuana. And NIDA reported the perception of marijuana use as risky continues to decline, with 31.9 percent of seniors saying regular use could be harmful, compared to 36.1 percent last year.

Among 10th graders, there has been a 54.9 percent drop in daily smoking in just five years, reported at just 3 percent this year compared to 6.6 percent five years ago. But usage of other tobacco products, "while not significantly changed from 2014, remain high with 12th graders, reporting rates of past year use of hookah and small cigars of 19.8 percent and 15.9 percent, respectively." and roughly twice as many boys as girls reported using e-cigarettes (21.5 percent to 10.9 percent).

A total of 44,892 students from 382 public and private schools participated in the survey.

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