An increasing number of high-schoolers don't see regular use of marijuana as harmful, according to a new survey from government researchers.
Specifically, 39.5 percent of high-school seniors said that regular marijuana use is harmful. That number was 44.1 percent just last year.
In addition, researchers reported that the number of teens smoking marijuana daily has increased over recent years -- today, 6.5 percent of high-school seniors smoke marijuana daily, compared with 2.4 percent in 1993.
"These increases in marijuana use over the past few years are a serious setback in our nation's efforts to raise a healthy generation of young people," Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy, said in a statement. "Teens deserve to grow up in an environment where they are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and drug use never factors into that equation. Today's news demands that all of us recommit to bolstering the vital role prevention and involved parenting play in keeping young people safe, strong, and ready to succeed."
The findings are based on data from the Monitoring the Future survey, which includes responses from 41,675 eighth, 10th and 12th-graders in the U.S. from 389 public and private schools.
The findings also revealed that 23 percent of high school seniors reported smoking marijuana in the last month before taking the survey, while 36 percent of seniors said they smoked marijuana in the last year. Among 10th graders, 29.8 percent said they used marijuana in the last year, 18 percent said they used it in the last month and 4 percent said they used it daily. Among eighth graders, more than 12 percent said they used marijuana in the last year.
"We should be extremely concerned that 12 percent of 13- to 14-year-olds are using marijuana," Dr. Nora Volkow, M.D., the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a statement. "The children whose experimentation leads to regular use are setting themselves up for declines in IQ and diminished ability for success in life."
Volkow also explained that at issue is not just increasing use of marijuana among teens -- the levels of THC in marijuana has also increased over the last decade, meaning "daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago."
The report also analyzed usage of other substances by teens. It showed:
- More than 7 percent of high-school seniors used the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug Adderall for non-medical purposes in the past year. Meanwhile, 2.3 percent of high-school seniors abused the ADHD drug Ritalin.
- Fewer high-school seniors are abusing the painkiller Vicodin, with 5.3 percent of high-school seniors abusing the drug today compared with 10.5 percent in 2003.
- Abuse of cough products with the ingredient dextromethorphan was reported by 5 percent of high-school seniors, which is a decrease from 2006, when 6.9 percent of seniors abused the products.
- Fewer high-school seniors are using synthetic marijuana (called K2 or Spice) -- 7.9 percent this year, compared with 11.3 percent last year.
- Fewer than 1 percent of eighth, 10th and 12th graders abuse bath salts drugs.
- Fewer teens are using inhalants, with 5.2 percent of eighth-graders reporting using them, compared with 8.7 percent from 10 years ago.
- Cocaine and heroin use is also gradually declining among teens, with 2.6 percent of high-school seniors reporting using cocaine and 0.6 percent of high-school seniors reporting using heroin this year. The figures were 6.2 percent for cocaine in 1999 and 1.5 percent in 2000 for heroin.
- Fewer teens are smoking cigarettes, with 9.6 percent of teens in all three grades surveyed saying they smoked a cigarette in the past month.
- Alcohol use by teens is also declining, with 39.2 percent of 12th graders saying they drank alcohol in the last month, compared with 52.7 percent in 1997 (the year it was at its highest).