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On December 18, 2013, NIDA released the latest results from the 2013 Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, which asks more than 40,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders about drug, alcohol, and cigarette use. The study revealed both good news and areas for concern.
First of all, scientists are concerned that only about 40% of 12th graders—that’s 4 out of every 10 teens—believe using marijuana regularly can hurt you. That’s 60% who think marijuana is not harmful! This perception that marijuana use is “okay” is tied to the increases in teens’ use of the drug over the past several years. Science shows that regular marijuana use can be harmful to your health and your future. THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, can damage the developing teen brain, yet teens aren’t understanding the connection between marijuana use and the brain’s ability to learn.
Marijuana use is also putting teens at risk for car accidents—since the drug impairs motor coordination and reaction time. With medical marijuana becoming more accepted and some states making marijuana legal to use, it’s difficult to get these messages to teens.
There’s other news that worries scientists too: Teens continue to abuse Adderall at a high rate. That drug is usually prescribed for people with ADHD—and when used as prescribed, it can really help. But more than 7% of high school seniors say they use Adderall to get high or for other nonmedical reasons.
But the survey tells us that teens are getting smarter about a lot of drug use. Cigarette smoking and alcohol use continued to decline in 2013. Also, fewer teens used K2/Spice (sometimes called synthetic marijuana), inhalants, cocaine, and heroin. Fewer teens are abusing prescription painkillers like Vicodin, and very few teens are using bath salts.
One last note: While cigarette smoking is down, too many teens are still “smoking” by using a hookah (water pipe)—in fact, more than 1 in 5 seniors say they have used a hookah in the past year. Tobacco is no less harmful in a hookah.
How would you tell other teens that marijuana is, in fact, harmful to their health? How would you change their minds if they think marijuana is harmless? How would you explain to teens that smoking a hookah is just as bad for their health as smoking a cigarette?