Yes parents, teenage marijuana use is down and it is great news. However teen substance abuse is still a significant problem among teenagers so we cannot be lulled into a false sense of security.
Teenagers And Marijuana
While overall marijuana usage rates are down, the research demands a closer look. Traditionally boys have had much higher rates of marijuana use than girls but the latest research is showing girls are using marijuana at about the same rate as boys. African American teenagers are also now using marijuana at significantly higher rates that white teenagers.
Teen Use Is Down But Penalties Are Not The Reason
A combined study with teens in Washington State and teens in Victoria, Australia show American teens are more likely to use marijuana. Washington State suspends students for drug use where students in Victoria receive mandatory substance abuse counseling.
Researchers found students in Washington State are 1.6 times more likely to use marijuana than those in Victoria. Students who were referred to the school counselor for pot use were 50-percent less likely to continue using it.
Maybe We Need To Ask Why Marijuana Use Is Down
On the surface the statistics look great! It may even seem like the many drug abuse prevention programs are finally taking hold. First of all marijuana is still the number one most used drug by teenagers regardless of their age or gender. However, the drugs that come after marijuana may explain why the numbers of teen pot smokers are dwindling.
If you cull the results of the Monitoring the Future study it won’t take you long to uncover an alarming trend—prescription drug abuse is way up. It is not too far of a leap to assume teenagers are no longer abusing pot because they have an unprecedented access to prescription medications.
Medicine Vs Drugs
Parents we need to understand there is no difference between the medicine that comes from the doctor’s prescription pad and illicit drugs found on the street corner when it comes to the potential for misuse and addiction. Prescriptions are not safer. In fact, in many respects they are more dangerous because we are not doing a very good job of teaching our teens they are dangerous too.
Seven of the top ten drugs used by teens are prescription medications. Seven. Teenagers whose ADHD cannot be managed without the use of pharmaceuticals those drugs are important and necessary. However, other teens are using them to get high. Unfortunately the first age of prescription drug abuse is now between 13-14 years old.
The teens who are shunning marijuana in favor of prescription drugs overwhelmingly believe they are safe than marijuana. Unfortunately with the prescription drug epidemic in the United States it is also easier for a curious teenager to get their hands on prescription drugs than it is marijuana.
Sixty-eight percent of teens said they first time they abused prescription drugs they got them from a friend or family member. Prescription drug use beats out heroin, Ecstasy, cocaine, and methamphetamines combined for teens 12-17 years old. Unfortunately teen prescription drug use is now the gateway to street drugs including marijuana.
Flipping The Script
For parents who are wondering how to talk to their teens about the dangers of marijuana use in the face of softening attitudes about marijuana, instead of the general ‘drugs are bad…don’t do drugs’ message perhaps use a new script. We need to be a little smarter.
Marijuana use is still bad for teenagers and there is science to help you back that up. The teenage brain continues to develop until the mid-20s so long term use of any substance impairs the teenage brain’s ability to develop properly.
Today’s teens have the same access to the internet as you do but not too many of them are going to follow the research far enough to find out what substance abuse really does to their brain. As parents arm themselves with brain biology they may have a better chance of helping their teens stay drug free in a changing world.
Teens Are Not Understanding The Consequences Of Getting High
Teens who think pot is no big deal are failing to recognize that driving while they are under the influence is still extremely dangerous. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens 16-19 years old. When teens are cited for driving under the influence, marijuana is second after alcohol. Whatever forces have combined to bring marijuana abuse down are still not getting through to teens about the consequences of getting high. It really is a life or death situation.
In the grand scheme of things it does not matter that marijuana use is trending downward, what matters is teens are even more out-of-touch with the effects of marijuana on their bodies and minds. Teen drug abuse is a problem and we parents need to be part of solution. If your teen is already abusing drugs, you need to get them help before it gets out-of-hand.