Synthetic Marijuana Use Down Among Teens
December 18, 2013

Teens Using Less Synthetic Marijuana And More Of The Real Stuff

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

A newly released survey from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found teenagers are using less synthetic marijuana and increasingly using the real thing. The annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey measures drug use and attitudes about drugs among America’s 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders.

The NIH survey found nearly 40 percent of high school seniors see habitual marijuana use as dangerous, a drop from the 2012 rate of 44 percent and a significant drop since the 1990s. The changing attitudes have coincided with increased rates of marijuana use over the past two decades – with 6.5 percent of seniors reporting daily marijuana use, compared to 6 percent in 2003 and 2.4 percent in 1993.

“This is not just an issue of increased daily use,” said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. “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, from 3.75 percent in 1995 to an average of 15 percent in today’s marijuana cigarettes. Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago.”

According to the survey, almost 23 percent of seniors said they had smoked marijuana over the month prior to taking the survey, and more than 36 percent reported using pot over the past year. Over 12 percent of eighth graders reported using marijuana in the past year.

“We should be extremely concerned that 12 percent of 13- to 14-year-olds are using marijuana,” Volkow said. “The children whose experimentation leads to regular use are setting themselves up for declines in IQ and diminished ability for success in life.”

“These increases in marijuana use over the past few years are a serious setback in our nation’s efforts to raise a healthy generation of young people,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy. “Teens deserve to grow up in an environment where they are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and drug use never factors into that equation. Today’s news demands that all of us recommit to bolstering the vital role prevention and involved parenting play in keeping young people safe, strong, and ready to succeed.”

The survey also found that use of so-called synthetic marijuana, frequently sold under the names K2 or Spice, dropped to 7.9 percent among high school seniors, down from 11 percent the previous year. These drugs are made by spraying psychoactive chemicals on herbs and many teens have experienced toxic reactions to these chemicals.

Cigarette use also continues to decline among teens, with 9.6 percent of students in all three grades surveyed saying they smoked – down from nearly 17 percent a decade ago and almost 25 percent in 1993. However, over 21 percent of seniors said they had smoked tobacco using a hookah in the past year, up over 3 percent from the 2012 rate.

“While cigarette use among youth continues to decline, such progress is threatened by use of other tobacco products such as hookahs,” said Dr. Howard K. Koh, assistant secretary for health for the Department of Health and Human Services. “We must remain vigilant in protecting kids against both old and new agents that promote addiction.”