Marijuana the Teen Drug of Choice Overtaking Alcohol

Savvy parents have known for some time that their teen offspring need direction and guidance so they won’t fall prey to peer pressure to drink and do drugs. Some parents do it right and still their teenage son or daughter may wind up experimenting with either alcohol or drugs.

But there is a trend that’s been developing that may be both encouraging and cause for concern. On the one hand, alcohol consumption by teens is going down, according to recent surveys, including the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) study.

Teen Alcohol Use Down

The most recent survey, the 2011 MTF study, found that teen consumption of alcohol is continuing to decline in both overall use and binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion. From 1991 to 2011, the proportion of eighth graders using alcohol within the past 30 days decreased by half.

Teen Marijuana Use Increasing

The same 2011 MTF study found dramatic increases in teen use of marijuana, particularly in daily use of cannabis in its various forms. And it’s not just the typical marijuana that’s gaining traction among teens. Synthetic marijuana, known by names such as Spice, K2 and “legal marijuana” is wreaking havoc across the country among teens eager to get high. The MTF study found that one in nine teens report using synthetic marijuana, one of the latest designer drugs to hit the scene.

A June 2011 ABC News story focused on the dangers of synthetic marijuana, which is widely available in convenience stores and malls and sold as incense or bath salts.

The Partnership at took time to respond to the University of Michigan’s 2011 MTF study, particularly with regard to increasing marijuana use by teens. Steve Pasierb, president of the Partnership at said, “With cuts to prevention programs nationwide, we find the number of teens who perceive marijuana as socially unacceptable is in decline, which influences usage.”

But there’s more than just the cuts in prevention program budgets underlying the surge in marijuana use by teens. “An equally disruptive influence for children lies in the current, prominent public dialogue about marijuana’s medicinal use, coupled with efforts to make it more widely available,” Pasierb said.

The Partnership at stresses that the data reflects a societal neglect of responsibility to maintain a robust prevention infrastructure for children and to provide parents with the kind of support and information they need to help their children make healthy choices.

What can parents do?  Read Part Two for suggestions on how parents can make a difference in their child’s behavior.