Teens Shun Synthetic Marijuana, but Smoke More of the Real Thing

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Thursday, December 19, 2013

Teens Shun Synthetic Marijuana, but Smoke More of the Real Thing

Teens are shunning synthetic marijuana, such as K2 and Spice, but smoking more of the real thing, a national survey of more than 40,000 children in three grades found.

The number of high school seniors who said they used the synthetic drugs dropped sharply from 11% in 2012 to 8% in 2013, the Monitoring the Future survey, released Wednesday, found. A growing number of teens see the drugs as dangerous.

Perceptions of marijuana have slid in the other direction as fewer teens see the drug as harmful and more smoke it. In 2013, one in 15 seniors reported using marijuana daily, up from one in 50 in 1993, the survey found.

Monitoring the Future, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, has surveyed high school seniors since 1975. The survey added eighth- and 10th-graders in 1991. Investigators surveyed 41,675 students in 389 public and private schools.

Teen marijuana use began increasing in 2008 after a decade of decline. About 40% of high school seniors see smoking marijuana as risky, down from 44% last year and 75% nearly two decades ago. Historically, when teens perceive marijuana as safe, use rises, lead researcher Lloyd Johnston said.

About one in four seniors reported smoking marijuana in the month before taking the survey and 36% reported smoking in the past year. Among sophomores, 30% had smoked in the past year and 18% in the past month and 4% daily. About 12% of eighth-graders smoked marijuana in the past year.

Other Monitoring the Future findings:

• In 2013, students who reported using illicit drugs rose slightly over last year. Among eighth-graders, 15% said they had used drugs in the past year. Nearly a third of 10th-graders (32%) and 40% of 12th-graders reported using drugs during the past year. The most popular drug is marijuana.

• Smoking, drinking and getting high on prescription painkillers continued to decline in 2013, the survey found. Fewer than 10% of teenagers reported smoking in the past month, down by two-thirds from its peak in 1997. Among seniors, who have the highest rates of cigarette smoking, the number of regular smokers decreased from 17% in 2012 to 16% in 2013.

• Alcohol use continued its two-decade decline, hitting record lows in 2013, the survey found. Binge drinking also dropped about 2% among 10th- and 12th-graders.

Source: USA Today