It’s not just the numbers of teens using marijuana that are increasing—it’s also the amount they’re using, according to a nationwide survey by "The Partnership at Drugfree.org" and MetLife Foundation.
Findings from the 23rd annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), indicate that heavy usage of marijuana by adolescents has risen by about 80 percent in the last four years, following a 10-year decrease that lasted from1998 to 2008, said Steve Pasierb, president of Drugfree.org, in a news statement May 2.
Based on surveys of 3,322 teens in grades 9-12 and 821 parents, the study displays a national trend of more frequent marijuana use. The number of teens reportedly using the illicit drug within the past month is up by 42 percent, according to PATS, while use within the past year is up by 26 percent.
Increased use is elevated slightly more among boys and minorities, with half of Hispanic teens admitting to using marijuana within the past year, compared to 40 percent of African Americans and 35 percent of Caucasians.
Overall, 10 percent of teenagers across the country said they had smoked around 20 times within the last month, putting the total figure of heavy teen users at 1.5 million.
"Ninety percent of all adult addicts started drug use in their teen years," Pasierb said in a statement, emphasizing the danger of marijuana as a gateway to more dangerous substances and the important role parents play in teen drug prevention.
“These findings are deeply disturbing as the increases we’re seeing in heavy, regular marijuana use among high school students can spell real trouble for these teens later on,” Pasierb said in a statement, adding that children who learn at home about the dangers of drug use are half as likely to use drugs.
He warned parents not to tolerate what many consider to be a safer alternative to street drugs like crystal meth and heroin, or pharmaceuticals such as OxyContin, the use of which has been likened to an epidemic in the past. Abuse of OxyContin and other pain prescriptions such as Vicodin, however, stayed at 10 percent based on the PATS’s data.
While the survey was conducted nationally, Pasierb said that medical marijuana dispensaries could be a possible factor for elevated rates of use by teens in California, and that before selling to patients dispensaries should “make certain there is a medical reason.”
Medical marijuana patients in California are required to see a physician for an evaluation and to get a prescription prior to visiting a dispensary.
PATS was sponsored by MetLife Foundation and has a plus or minus 3-3.4 percent margin of error.
To see the full report, view the PDF attached to this article.