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Marijuana Use Increases Among High School Seniors while Cigarette and Other Drug Use Rates Fall

Smoking Weed

In an interesting twist, for the first time since 1975, high school seniors in the United States are now using cannabis more than they smoke cigarettes. Surveys to determine drug use rate began in 1975 by the “Monitoring the Future” program funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

According to survey statistics, 5.5 percent of 12th graders smoked cigarettes daily, while 6 percent used marijuana daily. Furthermore, the percentage of seniors who used marijuana every day held steady when compared to last year, while the percentage of students smoking cigs fell when compared to last year.

The survey provides more cues to explain the drift, as the stats point out that perceptions of pot amongst students are changing, but not in a way many would prefer. Compared to last year, 4% less seniors currently feel that marijuana use is harmful—36% in 2014, 32% in 2015.

According to Dr. Nora D Volkow, the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, a viable explanation for the perception shift owes to the sense that since marijuana has medicinal purposes and doctors prescribe it, teens think it cannot be so harmful.

The trend is worrying because it has steadily gained momentum over the years. Every year, fewer students perceive weed as dangerous: although, marijuana use has held steady at about 6 percent three years in a row (since 2012).

However, the shifting perception is not the major reason for marijuana overtaking cigarettes in popularity. The major reason is the considerable drop in cigarette smoking rates amongst high school students within the last decade. The drop has been across the board. For example, the daily smoking rate amongst 10th graders dropped by 55 percent within the last 5 years.

The other reason, according to Dr. Volkow, is that high schoolers who smoked cigarettes now use other products. Top on the list are e-cigarettes. However, scientists are not certain about the effects of e-cigarettes on the body.

The perception amongst most teens who use e-cigs is that they inhale only flavors instead of nicotine. Nonetheless, there is still an ongoing debate over the safety of inhaling just flavoring. And that’s not it. There is currently no regulatory oversight over the manufacturing of e-cigs, and so quality of e-cigarette devices varies. Consequently, there is some evidence that some of these e-cig products release chemicals that are toxic to the body.

Nevertheless, the survey did uncover some laudable findings. The stats show that teens were using less of nearly every drug other than marijuana. The survey recorded a decline in the use of alcohol, synthetic marijuana, prescription opioids, and heroin. So much that use of heroin amongst eight, 10th, and 12th graders have declined to historical lows at 0.3 percent, 0.5 percent, and 0.5 percent respectively.

The worry of scientists with current rates of marijuana use among teens is that preliminary studies have displayed changes in the brain structure of adolescents who use cannabis. Researchers think since teens’ brains are still in development, those who use pot will likely have the wiring process between their neurons disrupted by the cannaboids entering their systems from pot.

Findings have been published on a website Monitoring the Future in a press release titled: “Use of ecstasy, heroin, synthetic marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes declined among US teens in 2015”.

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