Teen Marijuana Use Increases
-- Marijuana use, which can sometimes be glorified by entertainers and celebrities, is having a negative impact on black teens, and all teens across America. The rate of eighth-graders saying they have used an illicit drug in the past year jumped to 16 percent, up from last year's 14.5 percent, with daily marijuana use up in all grades surveyed, according to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that 12th-graders declines in cigarette use accompanied by recent increases in marijuana use have put marijuana ahead of cigarette smoking by some measures. In 2010, 21.4 percent of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days, while 19.2 percent smoked cigarettes.
Not only are children seeing the simulated use of marijuana in music videos and movies, but the celebrities they admire often speak positively about marijuana and their choice to use it. Entertainers like Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, and Lil Wayne, and athletes like Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and NFL player Ricky Williams, have been extremely open about their recreational use of marijuana.
The popularization of marijuana—also referred to as weed, pot, cannabis and grass—has skyrocketed over the past 10 years. Several states—including California, Maine, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, and Michigan have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. And some states are hoping that medical marijuana dispensary laws will appear on future ballots.
The MTF survey, released in December 2010 at a news conference at the National Press Club, also shows significant increases in use of Ecstasy. In addition, nonmedical use of prescription drugs remains high. MTF is an annual series of classroom surveys of eighth, 10th, and 12th-graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.
Most measures of marijuana use increased among eighth-graders, and daily marijuana use increased significantly among all three grades. The 2010 use rates were 6.1 percent of high school seniors, 3.3 percent of 10th -graders, and 1.2 percent of eighth-graders compared to 2009 rates of 5.2 percent, 2.8 percent, and 1.0 percent, respectively.
"These high rates of marijuana use during the teen and pre-teen years, when the brain continues to develop, places our young people at particular risk," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. "Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment, and motor skills, but research tells us that about 1 in 6 people who start using it as adolescents become addicted."
The MTF survey measures teen attitudes about drugs, including perceived harmfulness, perceived availability, and disapproval, all of which can predict future abuse. Related to its increased use, the perception that regular marijuana smoking is harmful decreased for 10th-graders (down from 59.5 percent in 2009 to 57.2 percent in 2010) and 12th-graders (from 52.4 percent in 2009 to 46.8 percent in 2010). Moreover, disapproval of smoking marijuana decreased significantly among eighth-graders. "We should examine the extent to which the debate over medical marijuana and marijuana legalization for adults is affecting teens' perceptions of risk," said Dr. Volkow. "We must also find better ways to communicate to teens that marijuana use can harm their short-term performance as well as their long-term potential."
For black teens in America, the idea that marijuana use is "cool" is where the battle begins. The fight becomes especially difficult when athletes, musicians, and actors continue to hail it as a wonder drug. Television shows like Showtime's Weeds
can undoubtedly have an effect on a teens' perception of the drug. The show is currently in its sixth season and revolves around a widowed Californian who turns to selling marijuana to support her family after her husband unexpectedly dies. She soon becomes involved in other illegal activities on an escalating scale.
"The increases in youth drug use reflected in the Monitoring the Future Study are disappointing," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don't help parents who are trying to prevent kids from using drugs. The Obama administration is aggressively addressing the threat of drug use and its consequences through a balanced and comprehensive drug control strategy, but we need parents and other adults who influence children as full partners in teaching young people about the risks and harms associated with drug use, including marijuana."
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