Pot, Prescription Drug Use Up with Teens, Tobacco, Alcohol Down

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Becoming more and more popular with teens is smoking marijuana however, they have cut down on smoking cigarettes, drinking and using methamphetamine. According to a federal survey released Monday December 14, 2009, it appears that more teens also are getting high on Dr prescribed prescription medications such as pain pills and ADHD drugs. The University of Michigan for the National Institute on Drug Abuse surveyed 8th, 10th, and 12th-graders.

It seems that teens believe because of the national debate over medical marijuana, the pot is a safe drug to use. The researchers also discovered that t fewer teens view prescription drugs and Ecstasy as dangerous, which often means more could use them in the future, said White House director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske.

The "continued erosion in youth attitudes and behavior toward substance abuse should give pause to all parents and policymakers," Kerlikowske said. "These latest data confirm that we must redouble our efforts to implement a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to preventing and treating drug use," said Kerlikowske.

The study revealed that out of 47,097 students, among 12th-graders, 20.6% said they used it within the past month, compared with 19.4% in 2008 and 18.3% in 2006. Among 10th-graders, pot use in the past month rose to 15.9% this year from 13.8% in 2008 and the 8th graders who smoked pot was 11.8%, compared with 10.9% in 2008. Tenth-graders' use was 26.7% this year and 23.9% in 2008. The percentage of 12th-graders was 32.8% compared with 32.4% in 2008.

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"The upward trending of the past two or three years stands in stark contrast to the steady decline that preceded it for nearly a decade," said Lloyd Johnston, who directs the annual survey since it started in 1975.

"Clearly, regulation of tobacco products has worked to curb access by teens, and it's time to apply those same sensible policies to marijuana," said Bruce Mirkin, spokesman for the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project.

The study showed that marijuana's growing popularity is tied to how risky teens think it is. To prove this, researchers discovered that the percentage of eighth-graders who saw a "great risk" in occasionally smoking marijuana fell from 50.5% in 2004 to 48.1% in 2008 and 44.8% this year. The perceived danger of using Ecstasy once or twice fell among eighth-graders, from 42.5% in 2004 to 26% in 2009.

"When the perception of the danger goes down, in the following years you see an increase in use," said Nora Volkow the National Institute on Drug Abuse Director. She says that teens falsely reason it's less dangerous to get high on prescription drugs "because they're endorsed by the medical community." But she said prescription narcotics like OxyContin and Vicodin are highly addictive and can act as gateways to heroin, a cheaper high.

Use of prescription narcotics rose among this year's 10th-graders, with 8.1% saying they had used Vicodin in the past year compared with 6.7% in 2008. For OxyContin, the figure rose to 5.1% from 3.6%. Recreational use of the attention-deficit drug Ritalin was lower than five years ago. But the attention-deficit drug Adderall had figures similar to those for Ritalin at its peak, which for 12th-graders was around 5%.

The good news is the study did show that there was a drop in alcohol and methamphetamine use as well as a drop in teen smoking.

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