Perception of Risk: Fewer Teens Believe Marijuana Is Harmful

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Teen head silhouette with Monitoring the Future title

Knowing the health risks that come with using or abusing drugs convinces most teens (and adults) to stay away from them. But what if you don’t think certain drugs are unsafe?

In December 2012, NIDA released the results of the 2012 Monitoring the Future (MTF) study (involving 8th, 10th, and 12th graders). The findings show that fewer teens believe abusing marijuana and Adderall is bad for their health. This belief is contributing to higher rates of abuse of these drugs.

Marijuana

Graph of perceived risk of marijuana use among 12th graders. Over the last 5 years, current (past-month) marijuana use has gone up significantly among 10th and 12th graders. In fact, current marijuana use among high school seniors is at its highest point since the late 1990s. Daily marijuana use has climbed significantly across all three grades. The study also found that fewer teens now believe using marijuana is harmful.

However, the science shows otherwise. People who smoke a lot of pot risk injuring their lungs with the chemicals found in the smoke, and may also experience depression and anxiety. New research has found smoking marijuana heavily in your teen years and continuing into adulthood can actually lower your IQ!

Adderall

Also in the 2012 MTF study, 12th graders reported increased nonmedical use of the prescription stimulant Adderall—commonly prescribed to people with ADHD. As with marijuana, fewer teens perceive that abusing Adderall is risky. If that trend continues, Adderall abuse will probably continue to increase as well.

Abusing a stimulant medication like Adderall may increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature; decrease appetite and sleep; and cause feelings of hostility and paranoia.

Perception of Risk

Studies have found that when teens think a drug can be harmful, they are less likely to abuse it. In the case of marijuana and Adderall, it appears that some teens don’t see the risk. Tell us: Do you think these drugs are dangerous? If you agree they are, what can we do to help people you know get the message?

Other notable findings from the 2012 MTF study:

  • Most of the top drugs abused by 12th graders are legal substances, like alcohol, tobacco, over-the-counter drugs, and prescription drugs.
  • Abuse of synthetic marijuana—K2 or Spice—remained stable in 2012.
  • Most teens who abuse prescription drugs get them from family and friends.
  • Alcohol use and cigarette smoking are steadily declining.

Check out this cool infographic to learn more.

These drug abuse estimates come from the Monitoring the Future study’s national surveys of approximately 45,000 students in about 400 secondary schools each year. View all of the 2012 data.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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