Volume 12, Number 2
Marijuana and Tobacco Use Up Again Among 8th
and 10th Graders
By Robert Mathias, NIDA NOTES Staff Writer
The rise in marijuana and tobacco use that began in the early 1990s among
America's young people continued last year, according to NIDA's 1996 Monitoring
the Future study. The study found that 8th and 10th grade students increased
their use of marijuana and tobacco in 1996, while 12th graders continued
to use these two substances at generally the same level as they did in 1995.
Students' use of other illicit drugs presented a mixed but overall unchanged
pattern in 1996, the study indicated.
"The survey tells us that drug use among young people is at unacceptably
high levels, that the core of the problem is marijuana, and that we must
fight aggressively to change these trends," Health and Human Services
Secretary Dr. Donna E. Shalala said at a press conference held in Washington,
D.C., last December to announce the study's results. "The survey shows
that our marijuana problem is fueled by teens who believe that marijuana
is not harmful," Secretary Shalala said. The perceived risk of harm
from using marijuana continued to decline among 8th and 10th graders in
1996, while perceived risk of harm from using other drugs either increased
or remained level among these students, according to the study.
Trends in Adolescents' Annual Use of Marijuana
Students in the 8th and 10th grades increased their
use of marijuana in 1996, while 12th graders continued to use marijuana
at generally the same level as they did in 1995. As this graph shows, past-year
marijuana use has been increasing among all grade levels since 1992.
"It is important that young people understand the harm and danger
caused by illicit drug use," NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner said.
"Years of scientific research have made this risk ever clearer, not
just for drugs such as cocaine and heroin but also for marijuana,"
he stressed. Clinical studies have shown that marijuana can have a host
of acute and short-term effects including impairment of skills related to
attention, memory, and learning as well as complex motor skills such as
those needed to drive a car. Clinical studies also indicate that regular
marijuana users may have many of the same respiratory problems that cigarette
smokers have. Animal studies suggest that chronic marijuana use can affect
the brain and immune system, but clinical studies are needed to verify these
effects in humans.
The 1996 Monitoring the Future study showed increases in lifetime, annual,
current, and daily use of marijuana for 8th and 10th graders from 1995 to
1996. Current marijuana use, which is use within the past 30 days, went
from 9.1 percent to 11.3 percent among 8th graders and from 17.2 percent
to 20.4 per-cent among 10th graders. Current marijuana use has increased
more than 250 percent among 8th graders since 1991 and more than 150 per-cent
for 10th graders since 1992.
For the first time since 1993, annual, current, and daily use of marijuana
by high school seniors showed no significant changes. However, the percentage
of high school seniors who had used mari-juana at least once in their lifetimes
increased from 41.7 percent in 1995 to 44.9 percent in 1996. In addition,
4.9 percent of seniors reported smoking marijuana every day, a statistically
nonsignificant rise from 4.6 percent in 1995, but more than double the 2.0
percent of seniors who used marijuana daily in 1991.
Cigarette use has increased among students in all three grade levels
since 1991, according to the study. Between 1995 and 1996, 8th graders'
current use of cigarettes increased from 19.1 percent to 21.0 percent. Among
10th graders, current use of cigarettes increased from 27.9 percent to 30.4
percent. Current smoking rates among 12th graders remained statistically
unchanged, rising 0.5 of a percentage point from 33.5 percent in 1995 to
34.0 percent in 1996. From 1991 to 1996, current use of cigarettes increased
by nearly one-half among 8th and 10th graders and by nearly one-fifth among
12th graders, noted Dr. Lloyd Johnston from the University of Michigan,
who conducted the study. These rates of cigarette smoking are "impressively
high, especially compared to the 25 percent of all adults classified as
current smokers," Dr. Johnston said.
Young people's use of drugs other than marijuana and tobacco presented
a mixed pattern in 1996:
- The percentage of 8th graders who reported having "been drunk"
in the past month increased from 8.3 percent in 1995 to 9.6 percent in
1996. The percentage of 10th and 12th graders who said they had been drunk
in the past month remained at high, though statistically unchanged, levels.
In 1996, 21.3 percent of 10th graders and 31.3 percent of 12th graders
reported having been drunk in the past month.
- Current use of all hallucinogens decreased among 12th graders from
4.4 percent in 1995 to 3.5 percent in 1996. Current use of LSD, a major
component of the hallucinogen category, dropped among 12th graders from
4.0 percent to 2.5 percent, and among 10th graders, from 3.0 percent to
2.4 percent. Eighth graders' use of LSD remained unchanged.
- Seniors' current use of inhalants declined from 3.2 percent in 1995
to 2.5 percent in 1996. Use of inhalants by 8th and 10th graders remained
From NIDA NOTES, March/April 1997
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