By Kirsty Oswald, medwireNews Reporter
High levels of use of marijuana among US teens continue unabated, show the 2012 results of the National Institute on Drug Abuse's 'Monitoring the Future' survey.
The survey also revealed declining perceptions of risk associated with marijuana use among teenagers, something which the authors say could have implications for future drug use trends.
"Whether this is more than a pause in the ongoing increase that we have seen in teen marijuana use in recent years is unclear at this point," said Lloyd Johnson (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA) in a press statement.
"One important variable that has been a lead indicator of use - namely the amount of risk teenagers perceived to be associated with marijuana use - continued its sharp decline in 2012 among teens, which would suggest further increases in use in the future."
The survey was answered by 44,449 eighth (13-14 years old), tenth (15-16 years old), and twelfth graders (17-19 years old) from 395 US schools.
The results showed that among twelfth graders, marijuana use in the previous year was reported by 36% of students, similar to the results of the 2011 survey. Furthermore, past month use has increased significantly over recent years, rising from 18.8% in 2007 to 22.9% in 2012. Among tenth-grade students, past month use rose from 14.2% to 17.0% over the same 5-year period.
The survey results also highlight the use of newer drugs such as synthetic marijuana, and "bath salts" among teenagers, which the authors say is particularly concerning because of the unknown risks associated with them.
Conversely, the use of other illicit drugs among teenagers continues to steadily decline, being reported by 5.5% of eighth graders, 10.8% of tenth graders, and 17% of twelfth graders. Furthermore, cigarette smoking and alcohol use were found at an all-time low in the survey's history.
The National Institutes for Health say that while the findings are encouraging, many concerns remain.
"These long-term declines in youth drug use in America are proof that positive social change is possible. But now more than ever we need parents and other adult influencers to step up and have direct conversations with young people about the importance of making healthy decisions," said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of US National Drug Control Policy.
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