Marijuana smoking among young people age 12 to 17 has nearly doubled since 1992, a startling new trend that is due in part to an increasing perception by youngsters that pot can’t hurt them, federal health officials said Tuesday.
The marijuana numbers, although far below the high reached in 1979, nevertheless indicate a reversal of the downward pattern of marijuana use that began in the early 1980s and continued to drop sharply until 1992.
Monthly marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds rose to 7.3 percent - or 1.3 million teens - in 1994, up from 4.0 percent in 1992 and 4.9 percent in 1993, according to the Household Survey on Drug Abuse, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
In 1979 - when the use of all illicit drugs was soaring in the United States - 16.8 percent of that age group smoked marijuana.
In the study, based on a nationally representative sample of 22,181 people 12 and older, drug use was defined as having used the drug sometime in the month before the survey was conducted.
The survey also found in that age group that the view of marijuana as dangerous had decreased.”When teenagers’ perception of
the harm caused by marijuana goes down, marijuana use goes up,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.
The survey also showed that under age drinking remains a problem, with 11 million drinkers between 12 and 20. Of these, 2 million are considered “heavy” drinkers.
The survey found that, in an average month in 1994:
13 million Americans used illicit drugs;
10 million Americans used marijuana, making it the most commonly used illicit drug;
1.4 million Americans, or 0.7 percent, used cocaine;
13 million Americans, or 6.2 percent of the population, had five or more drinks per occasion on five or more days in the month and;
60 million people, including 4 million adolescents age 12-17, smoked cigarettes.