Although NIDA’s annual Monitoring the Future survey shows that daily marijuana use in teens is mostly steady, the survey also shows that as cigarette smoking rates drop, daily marijuana smoking has become generally more common than daily cigarette smoking among teens. By the time they graduate high school, about 45 percent of teens have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime, a rate that has remained relatively steady for the past two decades. The survey also reports that high school seniors in states with medical marijuana laws are more likely to have vaped marijuana and consumed marijuana edibles than their counterparts in states without such laws.
Additionally, the number of teens who think marijuana use is harmful is declining. This is concerning because there is growing scientific evidence that heavy, regular use of marijuana that begins during the teen years can interfere with aspects of functioning and well-being.
Survey results show that we still have a long way to go in our efforts to prevent teen marijuana use and avoid the toll it can take on a young person’s life. NIDA recognizes that parents have an important role in this effort and can strongly influence their children’s attitudes and behaviors. However, the subject of marijuana use has become increasingly difficult to discuss—in part because of the mixed messages being sent by the passage of medical marijuana laws and legalization of marijuana in some states. In addition, many parents may have used marijuana when they were younger, which could make it more challenging to discuss openly or set rules about its use.
Talking to our children about drug use isn't always easy, but it is crucial. We are pleased to offer this short guide to review with your children. We have a similar booklet, called Marijuana: Facts for Teens, that you can also share. Sometimes, just beginning the conversation is the hardest part. I hope these booklets can help.
Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse