Adolescent Marijuana and Alcohol Use Statistics
Helping your teen navigate the minefield of adolescence can be a very difficult journey. One of the most challenging decisions facing adolescents today is whether they will use illicit substances such as marijuana and alcohol. Knowing the culture your teenager is submersed in day to day can help inform your conversations and interventions with them.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently released its 2011 report of adolescent substance use. Current trends indicate that alcohol and cigarette use is on the decline and marijuana use is on the rise.
The most commonly used substance among teens is still alcohol with:
• 63.5% (down from 68.6% in 2005) of high school seniors report alcohol use in the past year
• 40% (down from 45.3% in 2005) in the past month.
• 42.2% of high school seniors report having been drunk in the past year (down from 47.9% in 2005)
• 25% have got drunk in the past month (down from 30.2% in 2005).
This means that despite reductions in the number of teens drinking, still almost half of high school seniors drank alcohol in the past month and 1 out of 4 of them got drunk.
After alcohol, marijuana is the most used drug among high school seniors and it has been on the rise the past 5 years. They found the following percentages of current marijuana use among high school seniors:
• 22.6% report using in the past month
• 36.4% report using in the past year
• 45.5% report using in their lifetime
This year’s survey also captured for the first time the use of synthetic marijuana (also known as K2 or Spice) among high school seniors. Almost 1 in 9 (11.4%) of high school seniors reported using Spice in the past year.
In the past five years, marijuana use has been increasing significantly among adolescents. For example, between 2006 and 2011, past-month use of marijuana increased:
• From 18.3% to 22.6% (23.5% increase) among high school seniors.
• From 14.2% to 17.6% (23.94% increase) among 10th graders.
• From 6.5% to 7.2% (10.77% increase) among 8th graders.
There are several possible reasons for the increase in marijuana use among teens. One reason is that among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, recent trends show a decline in the “perceived risk of harm” associated with marijuana use. Another reason is the increase in availability of substances to youth. For instance, 82.2% of students say that it is “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain marijuana.
Out of all of these numbers, about one in three teens are currently showing signs of addiction to an addictive substance. Several factors increase the likelihood of a teen developing addiction to substances such as: genetic predisposition, mental health diagnoses, and early age onset of first use.
More adolescents are using substances like marijuana and more are showing signs of addiction.
What Can Parents Do?
The best thing you can do is proactively talk with your teenager to discuss positive and negative consequences associated with using and help them see the risk versus reward is not worth using. Get to know their friends and seek to help them become involved in healthy prosocial activities. If your teen is currently using substances, it is imperative that you seek to have an open conversation with them. This does not mean you condone their use but rather seek to understand their reasons for using and help them think through alternative ways to achieve their desired goals. Additionally, it is important to set reasonable and firm expectations with your adolescent as well as consequences for non-compliance. If you have concerns about their substance use, it is best to have them meet with a trained counselor that can assess their level of use and work with them to make healthy changes.
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