- There has been a significant increase in marijuana abuse among minors in the US, with the rate skyrocketing by 245% as compared to 2000. In contrast, alcohol abuse has seen a steady decline.
- Children have shifted their preferences from smoking marijuana to consuming edibles, likely due to their more appealing presentation and easier availability.
- A detailed study on substance abuse trends identified a rise in severe medical complications resulting from this abuse, with one-third of reported cases having serious health impacts.
- With the legalization of cannabis in many states, marijuana extracts in e-cigarettes have also become more popular.
- Preventing substance abuse should be a priority at home, with parents encouraged to maintain a drug-free environment and properly educate their children about the potential risks.
A recent study suggests a dramatic change in the behavior pattern of the young generation in the US when it comes to substance abuse. The once raging problem of alcohol consumption among teenagers seems to be receding, only to be replaced by an escalating incident rate of cannabis misuse.
Dramatic Increase in Marijuana Abuse
Compared to 2000, the current rate of marijuana abuse reported among minors(6-18 years old) has skyrocketed by 245%. Contrarily, alcohol abuse by children has witnessed a steady decline over these years. The data is derived from a thorough study of toxic substance ingestions over two decades.
The lead scientist on this project, Dr. Adrienne Hughes, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, connected this symptomatic rise in cannabis misuse with the concurrent wave of decriminalization across the country.
Besides increased consumption, how young users consume cannabis has also evolved. The trend of young generation drifting away from smoking marijuana and shifting to alternative consumption methods is significantly evident.
Adolescents Turning to Edibles
Edibles, due to their discretion and convenience, seem to be preferred over smoking. These are available in attractive presentations and often marketed in a way that appeals to younger audiences. Linda Richter, Vice president for prevention research and analysis at the Partnership to End Addiction in New York City, believes that these child-friendly presentations of edibles greatly normalize cannabis use and consequently reduce risk perception among youths.
Changing Trends in Substance Abuse
Subjecting over approximately 339,000 cases of intentional substance abuse among children and teenagers to analysis, researchers found some significant trends. Over 80% of the subjects were teenagers aged 13-18 years, with boys accounting for 58% of these cases.
The study also highlights a significant result of this abusive behavior – one-third of the reported cases resulted in severe medical complications.
Through these years, patterns of substance abuse have morphed considerably. Prior to 2013, alcohol abuse dominated the charts. It wasn’t until its onset of decline in 2013 that marijuana abuse started catching up. Consequently, since 2014, marijuana abuse reports have outstripped those of alcohol abuse each year, soaring higher each time. Compiled data presents an alarming rise in the use of all forms of marijuana, with the biggest increase consumed in edibles.
In the wake of cannabis legalization in 21 states plus Washington D.C. for recreational use, and for medical application in 38 states including D.C., marijuana extracts found in e-cigarettes have also seen a popularity surge.
Risks Posed by Marijuana
People generally underestimate the potency and concentration of THC in their consumed products, coupled with its delayed effects, often leads to unintentional excess ingestion—resulting in an increased risk of poisoning. Richter warns of the heightened risks posed by marijuana products, especially for children and juveniles.
Of all categories of substance abuse among teenagers, over-the-counter medication misuse still caused most overdose-related visits to the emergency room. Besides cough medicines, the study found cold medicines containing antihistamines being commonly abused by this group.
Proper Prevention to Safeguard Our Youth
Even though the death count through drug abuse remains low among this group, the research also found some disturbing numbers – about 450 youngsters died due to overdoses, majorly from opioids.
Uncle Sam has made it abundantly clear; the job of preventing substance abuse starts at home with parental awareness. Parents need to be wary of the potential risks and take proactive steps to maintain a drug-free environment at home. Richter advises parents to keep addictive substances out of children’s sight and reach. Along with this, children should never perceive these substances as harmless, fun, or stress relieving through adult behavior.
The majority of the over 57,000 poisonings reported amongst the 6 to 12 age group were caused by non-traditional drugs such as vitamins, melatonin, plants, hand sanitizers, and other similar substances.
The report was first seen on Dec. 5 in the journal Clinical Toxicology.
If you wish to know more about teenagers and substance abuse, visit U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.