US teenagers are smoking more marijuana,
but backing away from other harmful drugs and doing less binge drinking,
according to a report from federal health researchers released Wednesday.
Easier access to marijuana provided by new
state laws allowing the drug for medical treatment may be a factor, according
to the report from the National Institutes of Health.
The survey found that roughly 6.5% of high
school seniors are smoking marijuana daily compared with 6 percent a decade ago
and 2.4% in 1993, and nearly 23% of seniors said they smoked the drug in the
Increase in potency
About 4% of 10th graders said they smoke
the drug daily and 18% smoked within the last month. "We should be
extremely concerned," said Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National
Institute on Drug Abuse.
The growing use parallels an increase in
the potency of marijuana, so the drug can be even more harmful to developing
brains than in the past, she added.
More teens are smoking marijuana in part
because they see less risk from regular use, according to the "Monitoring
the Future" survey. Slightly less than 40% of 12th graders surveyed said
they see regular marijuana use as harmful, down from 44.1% a year ago, the
Researchers said many of the teens
reporting regular marijuana use say they get the drug through a medical
marijuana prescription, either written for themselves or someone else. Colorado
and Washington have legalized recreational use of marijuana, while 19
other states and the District of Columbia permit some form of medical marijuana
A separate study also out Wednesday underscored
how legalisation can translate into increased use. Washington state residents
will consume an estimated 175 metric tons of marijuana this year, equivalent to
about 50 half-gram joints for each man, woman and child in that state,
according to a study commissioned by state officials.
The consumption figures are more than
double what state officials estimated ahead of last year's vote to legalise
recreational use of the drug.
The Marijuana Policy Project, which
advocates for legal marijuana, said that legalising marijuana with
age restrictions might reduce marijuana use by teens. "This data should
inspire NIDA to examine the possibility that regulating marijuana like alcohol
and cigarettes could be a more effective approach than the current
system," said MPP spokesman Mason Tvert.
A positive note
On a positive note, researchers said
teenagers reported reduced use of synthetic marijuana, sometimes called
"K2," or "Spice," which has been tied to toxic reactions in
some users. The use of harmful inhalants also declined over the last year, the
Cocaine and heroin use continued to show
gradual declines in use by teenagers, with use of both drugs at historic lows.
Alcohol use by teens also continued a
steady decline, the survey found. The percentage of 10th graders who said they
recently drank five or more drinks in a row dropped to 13.7% in 2013 from 15.6% in 2012, the survey said.
More than 41 600 students from 389 public
and private schools participated in this year's Monitoring the Future survey.