The rate of eighth-graders saying they have used an illicit drug in the past year jumped to 16 percent, up from last year’s 14.5 percent, with daily marijuana use up in all grades surveyed, says the 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey issued today by the National Institute or Drug Abuse. For 12th-graders, declines in cigarette use have put marijuana ahead of cigarette smoking by some measures. In 2010, 21.4 percent of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days, while 19.2 percent smoked cigarettes.
The survey also shows significant increases in use of Ecstasy. Medical use of prescription drugs remains high. The report is an annual series of classroom surveys of eighth, 10th, and 12th-graders by the University of Michigan. Most measures of marijuana use increased among eighth-graders, and daily marijuana use increased significantly among all three grades. “These high rates of marijuana use during the teen and pre-teen years, when the brain continues to develop, place our young people at particular risk,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow. “Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment, and motor skills, but research tells us that about 1 in 6 people who start using it as adolescents become addicted.” White House drug policy director Gil Kerlikowske called the increases in youth drug use “disappointing” and said “mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don’t help parents who are trying to prevent kids from using drugs. [ ] we need parents and other adults who influence children as full partners in teaching young people about the risks and harms associated with drug use, including marijuana.”