The legalization of marijuana continues to prompt heated debate, with some questioning whether the increased availability of the drug would influence the already rampant marijuana use amongst teenagers.  Opinions and debates aside, recent facts gleaned from a new study confirm that the legalization of the marijuana would indeed prompt increased use by high school students who otherwise would be unlikely to use the drug.

The Facts of the Matter

The Florida-based Suncoast Rehabilitation Center points out that the legalization of recreational marijuana contributes to the creation of a society in which the use of drugs is viewed nonchalantly by its youth.  It is a trend which seems to be largely to blame for the unexpected increase in the use of marijuana amongst teenagers.

Based on recently published survey data from Monitoring the Future, a nationally representative survey of students currently in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades; 10 percent of high school students who would otherwise be low-risk for habitual marijuana smoking now say they would use pot of it were legal.  For this survey, researchers defined “low risk” as kids who do not smoke cigarettes, have non-marijuana smoking friends, and who have strong religious beliefs.

Additionally, the same study also found that among seniors in high school, there would be an increase of 5.6 percent in lifetime pot-use prevalence.  Due to the fact that 45.6 percent of the high school seniors in the study admitted to smoking pot, the findings suggest that marijuana legalization would increase the number to 51.2 percent.

According to Tammy Strickling, Executive Director of Narconon Suncoast, the increasing emphasis placed on both medical and recreational marijuana use is guiding teens to believe that pot is not damaging to their long-term health.

Yet recent studies have determined there is a definitive link between the use of marijuana and mental capabilities, finding that young people with poor academic performance were four times more likely to have used pot in the past year than their peers who were averaging higher grades.

Marijuana use was also found to be associated with lower grades, as well as a decreased chance of graduating from school.

Strickling also noted that youth are heavily influenced by what they observe in their surroundings, and the more that the perception of harm is reduced and acceptability is increased by legalizing marijuana; the higher the likelihood of increased marijuana use amongst teens who believe that pot poses no health threat.

Strickling pointed out, as well, that some of the most addictive and highly-abused substances in our society—alcohol, tobacco and prescription pills—“are all legal and regulated.”

More Commentary

The legalization of marijuana is leading some experts to voice their concerns regarding its as yet unforeseen consequences.  Director of Addiction Psychiatry and New York University Tisch Hospital, Dr. Stephen Ross, commented he was worried due to the fact that teen marijuana-use trends had been showing a decline until a few years ago.  But as more U.S. states have begun legalizing marijuana, fewer people believe there are risks in marijuana use.  Consequently, its use has been increasing over the last few years, particularly amongst teenagers for whom frequent pot use has increased by 80 percent.

Ms. Strickling maintains that reducing the likelihood of teenage drug use is done by limiting accessibility as opposed to increasing accessibility to drugs such as marijuana.  Critical, as well, is public, parental and teen education as to the potential dangers of drug abuse.  She suggests that parents speak openly about the dangers of drugs and drug abuse with their children and teens; setting clear standards as to what is expected of them as regards their behavior when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is some advice well-taken by those who want to prevent drug use and abuse before it even begins.

To learn more about the Suncoast Rehabilitation Center and its rehabilitation programs, call 1-800-511-9403.