In the “good news, bad news” category: The 2011 University of Michigan Monitoring the Future survey released this week revealed that, while teen tobacco and alcohol use are on the decline, use of marijuana has skyrocketed. In fact, daily use of pot by high school seniors is at a 30-year peak, according to the report — and that number has risen for the fourth straight year in a row. (This is in sharp contrast to the declines in marijuana use seen in the previous decade.)
One in every nine seniors also reported trying synthetic marijuana (also known as K2, Wicked X and Spice) in the prior 12 months. If you haven’t heard about this new spin on weed, synthetic marijuana is a drug composed of common herbs sprayed with chemicals. Some states have banned it, but you can still buy it legally in 37 states at tobacco stores, head shops, and gas stations where it’s marketed as “incense.”
The good news for parents: Alcohol use, including the worrisome trend of binge drinking, is continuing to decline. (Though the news is nothing to get too excited about yet: a whopping 40% of 12th graders reported drinking in the past 30 days, compared to 54% back in 1991.) Abuse of other drugs like cocaine, prescription drugs and over-the-counter cold medicine has either held steady or gone down.
One possible reason for the increased popularity of marijuana (the synthetic kind and the real stuff) might be that kids don’t perceive it to be dangerous. Disapproval of marijuana use has also diminished.
Studies show that the more parents are involved and show interest in what their child is doing, the less kids tend to drink, abuse substances or engage in risky behavior. Do you talk to your child about alcohol and substance abuse? And if so, how do you broach the subject?
*Click here for more facts about marijuana from NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.