Teen drug survey is a sign marijuana use could rise

Teenage girl in trouble with parentsThe federal government’s annual report monitoring kids’ alcohol and drug abuse has been released. The 2009 Monitoring the Future Survey reports that while use of cigarettes, methamphetamines, cocaine and binge drinking is down the use of prescription drugs and smokeless tobacco is up. Marijuana use is holding steady.

John Knight, MD, director of The Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research (CeASER) at Children’s says those findings aren’t particularly surprising. What we do need to worry about, he says, is that the survey also reports that adolescents’ perceived harm of marijuana is way down.

What exactly does that mean? Knight says that when adolescents think a drug has little or no harm, they are much more likely to use it. So, be ready for marijuana use to jump along with other drugs. “Marijuana is a gateway drug that leads kids towards all kinds of other drugs,” Knight says.

Why do kids perceive marijuana less harmful now than in the past? The national debate over medical marijuana use is a big reason, says Knight. The decriminalization of marijuana in some parts of the country makes it seem less risky to kids.

“Marijuana as medication is just a smokescreen,” Knight says. “What other kinds of medications do you see being distributed at pharmacies in baggies?”

Knight says that the government’s version of medical marijuana, Marinol, has faced opposition from medical marijuana reform groups like NORML because it doesn’t make you feel high like other street versions of the drug. “It treats chronic pain without the high and that’s not what these groups want.”

If you think your child might be using drugs and alcohol, visit CeASAR’s website for helpful resources.

In this video clip, Knight talks about the signs of substance abuse.