Fewer teens are drinking and smoking cigarettes but more are turning to marijuana, a recently released health report shows.
The 2011 Monitoring the Future survey of 47,000 teens found that though alcohol and cigarette smoking has hit a 30 year low, one in four teens had used marijuana at some point during the past year, up from 21.4 percent in 2007. The report found the number of young people using any illicit drug has been rising gradually over the last four years – due in large part to the legalization of medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
In 2011, 50 percent of high school seniors reported having tried an illicit drug at some point, 40 percent used one or more drugs in the past 12 months and 25 percent used one or more drugs in the past 30 days.
Among 10th graders, 38 percent reported using illicit drugs at least once, 31 percent used in the past 12 months, and 19 percent in the past month. Among 8th graders it was 20 percent, 15 percent and 8.5 percent respectively.
Students are also turning to “synthetic marijuana” to get high. One in every nine high school seniors reported using synthetic marijuana in the past 12 months.
The survey revealed many teens did not think marijuana was a dangerous drug. But the use of marijuana and synthetic marijuana has caused some health concerns.
Marijuana users have a 4.8-fold increase in the risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking.
In early 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration banned synthetic marijuana chemicals because of its threat to public health. Users were found to have anxiety, panic, paranoia, rapid heart rate and shortness of breath.
The use of hardcore drugs like powder cocaine and crack cocaine is down among teens since the late 1980s and 1990s.