Kids are cool with pot now, but are using less drugs than ever before

Kids are cool with pot now, but are using less drugs than ever before

VicesJanuary 02, 2017 By Brian Frederick

Children shouldn’t be out there in the real world doing drugs or smoking a ton of weed, that much is abundantly (hopefully) clear, as we’re now well into the 2000s. There’s enough fact-based evidence available that shows what happens when kids do make poor decisions. It’s a tough hole to climb out of.

However, according to a few new studies released, kids aren’t even as interested in doing drugs as they once were. Admission to drug use is at a historical low. And even in states that have legalized weed, teen use of it is pretty stagnant.

On one hand, the National Institute on Drug Abuse revised its Monitoring the Future Survey which tracks drug use and attitudes of American 8th, 10th and 12th graders. What it found is that “past-year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana (is) continuing to decline to the lowest level in the history of the survey in all three grades — 5.4 percent among 8th graders, 9.8 percent among 10th graders, and 14.3 percent among 12th graders.”

And for weed, the rate of use in 8th and 10th graders remained unchanged, it was just the seniors in high school that saw a small uptick in past year use.

What’s best is that the scary things such as alcohol, opioids, synthetic drugs — and even cigarettes — are all steadily declining in use amongst teens (to historical low levels). What this means or why it’s happening is anyone’s guess right now, however it may very well be linked to ongoing prevention programs (probably not) or that the word is finally getting around and the culture is changing.

“A lot of my friends know people who have died from drugs,” says 15-year-old Clay, a sophomore at a suburban Colorado high school. “People that do drugs get shamed a lot at my school too, it isn’t considered cool at all to do. Kind of like, they’re junkies.”

As far as weed is concerned, however, kids’ attitudes surrounding it are leveling off a bit, mimicking a drastic change the entire country has seen over the past few years. Over 60 percent of American adults are now fine with weed, a far cry from a decade ago when only 32 percent favored legalization.

“I think a lot of parents would admit to using weed, especially in Colorado,” adds Clay. “It’s a lot safer than drugs or alcohol, we all know that.”

But this all has little to do with specific state legislation changing the minds of the youth. In Association of State Recreational Marijuana Laws With Adolescent Marijuana Use, Magdalena Cerdá and her team discovered that while teen worries about the safety of the plant noticeably dropped in Washington, there was little impact on the same age group and their attitudes in Colorado — the two states with the largest legal recreational and medicinal industries right now.

Kids aren’t as worried about pot being so dangerous, but it’s not like they’re using it like crazy, either.

When reached for comment, Dr. Cerdá, associate professor in emergency medicine and associate director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program, is still cautious about the findings.

“I think we are still learning what the risks associated with marijuana are, and the reasons why teens perceive marijuana as less harmful now than they did in prior years are not yet sufficiently well understood,” she says.

She still wants kids to avoid weed (and anything else) altogether, because use does come with complications.

“Some adolescents who try marijuana will go on to chronic use, with an accompanying range of adverse outcomes, from cognitive impairment to downward social mobility, financial, work-related, and relationship difficulties,” she adds. “We need to better understand the impact of recreational marijuana use so we’re better prepared to prevent adverse consequences among the most vulnerable sectors of the population.”

To clarify, what she’s referencing about ‘work-related and financial difficulties’ is based on a previous study she took part in.

“Our prior study, which followed people in Dunedin, New Zealand, from early childhood to age 38, found that regular, long-term marijuana users (that is, people who used at least 4 times per week over years), were more likely to experience financial difficulties, such as low credit scores, consumer debt, and difficulty making ends meet, in adulthood, than people who were not regular, long-term marijuana users,” she says. “This suggests that regular, long-term marijuana use increases the risk for worse economic problems in adulthood — this doesn’t mean that everyone who is a regular, long-term marijuana user will have poor financial status, but that a higher proportion of regular, long-term marijuana users (compared to other people) will have poor financial status.”

Long story short, experts are out there trying to figure this all out, and kids aren’t using near as much as anti-weed and anti-drug people would probably expect.

The kids, they’re gonna be aight.