Teen Marijuana Use Skyrocketing, Alcohol and Cigarette Use Down

Posted December 16, 2011 by

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In the “good news, bad news” category:  The 2011 University of Michigan Monitoring the Future survey released this week revealed that, while teen tobacco and alcohol use are on the decline, use of marijuana has skyrocketed.  In fact, daily use of pot by high school seniors is at a 30-year peak, according to the report — and that number has risen for the fourth straight year in a row. (This is in sharp contrast to the declines in marijuana use seen in the previous decade.)

One in every nine seniors also reported trying synthetic marijuana (also known as K2, Wicked X and Spice) in the prior 12 months. If you haven’t heard about this new spin on weed, synthetic marijuana is a drug composed of common herbs sprayed with chemicals. Some states have banned it, but you can still buy it legally in 37 states at tobacco stores, head shops, and gas stations where it’s marketed as “incense.”

The good news for parents:  Alcohol use, including the worrisome trend of binge drinking, is continuing to decline. (Though the news is nothing to get too excited about yet: a whopping 40% of 12th graders reported drinking in the past 30 days, compared to 54% back in 1991.) Abuse of other drugs like cocaine, prescription drugs and over-the-counter cold medicine has either held steady or gone down.

One possible reason for the increased popularity of marijuana (the synthetic kind and the real stuff) might be that kids don’t perceive it to be dangerous. Disapproval of marijuana use has also diminished.

Studies show that the more parents are involved and show interest in what their child is doing, the less kids tend to drink, abuse substances or engage in risky behavior. Do you talk to your child about alcohol and substance abuse? And if so, how do you broach the subject?

*Click here for more facts about marijuana from NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Frustrated Report

    We have a 17 year old son that had been smoking pot since he was in the seventh grade. We had no idea. Our 12 year old daughter enlightened us. We are active in his life but do not smother him. He does very well in school. In fact, right after his sophomore year, he took the ACT and scored Ivy League scores in most categories. He is also active in sports and other organizations in high school. Needless to say, we were upset when we found out. He said he would stop. We initially started testing him but after testing clean (for about four months), we slowed down the testing. That was a big mistake. Last night, we found some smoking papers in the car he drives and confronted him. He has started smoking pot again. I was very angry. He thinks it is ok and should be legalized. I told him it is not legal and that even if it were legal, it would not be legal for a minor to use. In some ways, he is our wild child; but at the same time, he performs well in school, sports…virtually all that he does. At home, he is helpful in just about every way and has no anger or acting out issues. He is good to his brother and sister and helps them regularly with their school work. He gets along well with everyone, and his manners are impeccable. How do you handle a situation like this? We will start testing him again; we can punish him; and, we can give him the opportunity to earn back certain freedoms. Is this enough with a child like our son? As far as we know, he does not drink. He does like risky activities like street gymnastics (Parkour) and riding dirtbikes hard in his free time. We try our best to keep this within reason, constantly discussing safety issues. He is a real mixed bag…the perfect son but like all of us, has his personal set of issues. How do we fix this pot smoking problem with a kid like him? He is one smart and really good kid otherwise. For as long as he has been smoking pot, it just can’t be a faze that he is going through, or is it? Thanks, Frustrated

  2. Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor Report

    To ‘ARTDOG’: It can be so frustrating to parent a child who is abusive toward you, and making choices that you do not understand. Regardless of how stressed your daughter is, you have the right to be safe, and to be treated respectfully. It does not make you a “horrible parent” to make a decision to take a breather with your adult child. Actually, it is good role-modeling of self-care to realize that you cannot stay in an abusive situation. Some important things to keep in mind are that you have done the best you could with your daughter, and your daughter’s choices are her own. You cannot control your daughter; indeed, when you try to control a child with ODD, that attempt at control typically escalates the situation further. All you can control is yourself, and your actions. If you are paying for her schooling, you might let her know that if her grades do not meet a certain level, then she will be responsible for paying for any future courses. If she is responsible for paying, we encourage you to let it go, and let your daughter make her own choices. If she receives poor grades due to smoking pot, or not studying, those are her choices, and you cannot control that. When she is ready, you can offer her opportunities; ultimately, it is her responsibility to put the work in to bring up her grades, and make different choices. We do offer a program, The ODD Lifeline, for parents of children with ODD. This helpful program really focuses on effective ways of dealing with your child with ODD, and helps you concentrate on what you can and cannot control. I am also including links to articles written by the program’s authors, Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner, which I think you might find helpful: Parenting ODD Kids: Advice from Two Moms Who’ve Been There & ODD Kids: How to Manage Violent Behavior in Children and Teens. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

  3. ARTDOG Report

    My daughter has had probably the worst ODD one could imagine. Her level of insanity was so great that I honestly thought I was going to lose my mind and she was going to end up in the hospital. Yes, I went through this for 19 years. Until one experience in Miami Beach stopped her behavior for future events. I literally walked out on her. She was almost 19 and I no longer had to worry about legal ramifications. She was literally abusing me. It got to the point where I could not use the phone, sit her in space or breathe loud. I felt so horrible about myself that I just said that I could not take one more minute in her apt. She was living there for two months. I realize now that she was stressed at her summer job and hated it. She took it out on me in a way that was more abusive than I have seen people behave with rejected animals. I worry now that she is somewhat normal if I can ever let go of the horror my 18 years with her. I do love her which surprises me. But I feel like the worst parent because I could not get her to study or do anything really. Now she is in her second year of college and her grades are 2.0. SHe hates the college she has ended up in. It is a community college. However, she smokes too much pot and seems to miss classes. I don’t know whether I should let go of the grades since 2.0 is passing. She knows it is her responsibility. She also says that the pot helps her anger. She says it makes her feel better about herself. I have two questions. One, how will I ever forgive myself for being a terrible parent to her and my son who had to watch this for 16 years. And how do I help her with her terrible grades? Thanks for reading, VERY HURT, ARTDOG



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