Attorney General highlights national report showing increases in youth drug use attributable to higher marijuana consumption

DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said today that a new report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse points to a disturbing rise in drug use among youth, fueled primarily by increases in marijuana use.

According to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey, the percentage of 8th graders using illicit substances rose to 16 percent from 14.5 percent the previous year. The National Institute on Drug Abuse attributed this spike and other increases in drug-usage rates among other demographics to increased marijuana use.

“These increases in youth drug use are being fueled by the increasing accessibility and acceptability of marijuana use,” Suthers said. “Marijuana use can have grave detrimental effects on the developing minds and behavior of teens. This report highlights one of the side effects of the increasing social acceptance of medical marijuana and the ramifications of its widespread use.”

According to the report, daily marijuana use among:

  • 8th graders rose to 1.2 percent in 2010, up from 1 percent the previous year;
  • 10th graders rose to 3.3 percent in 2010, up from 2.8 percent the previous year; and,
  • 12th graders rose to 6.1 percent in 2010, up from 5.2 percent the previous year.

“These high rates of marijuana use during the teen and pre-teen years, when the brain continues to develop, place our young people at particular risk,” Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a statement accompanying the report. “Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment and motor skills, but research tells us that about one in six people who start using it as adolescents become addicted.

The Monitoring the Future Survey also revealed significant declines among 10th and 12th grader in the perceived dangers of marijuana use and the disapproval of other marijuana users.

“We should examine the extent to which the debate over medical marijuana and marijuana legalization for adults is affecting teens’ perceptions of risk,” Volkow said. “We must also find better ways to communicate to teens that marijuana use can harm their short-term performance as well as their long-term potential.”

“The increases in youth drug use reflected in the Monitoring the Future Study are disappointing,” Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said of the survey results. “Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don't help parents who are trying to prevent kids from using drugs.”

Suthers said the findings of the national survey underline recent Colorado Department of Education data that showed a spike in the number of drug-related expulsions across the state at the same time medical marijuana because widely accessible.

“Increased marijuana use among youth has serious ramifications for the education of our children and numerous other important issues that could compromise Colorado’s future,” Suthers said. “Although the legislature has chosen to legitimize dispensaries beyond what the voters approved in 2000, I would encourage policymakers to continue to consider and, if necessary, revisit this issue as more and more data reveals the effects of marijuana proliferation and use.”

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