Teen "Heavy" Marijuana Use Up 80 Percent Since 2008, One in 10 Teens Report Using Marijuana at Least 20 Times a Month

Teen abuse of Rx and over-the-counter medicines remain at dangerous levels

(Phoenix, Ariz.) – The results of a new, nationally projectable survey released today by The Partnership at DrugFree.org found that past-month marijuana use – particularly heavy use – has increased 80 percent among U.S. high schools students since 2008.


The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), which was sponsored by MetLife Foundation, also found that nine percent of teens (nearly 1.5 million) smoked marijuana heavily (at least 20 times) in the past month.


In Arizona, the most recent Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC) study found similar trends, reporting 30 percent of youth ages 12-17 had used marijuana in their lifetime, with male youth being more likely to use versus female youth (32 percent versus 28 percent).


“Arizona’s numbers, and now the national numbers, are indeed troubling,” said Leslie Bloom, CEO of DrugFreeAz.org. “We saw an extraordinary 23 percent drop in teens reporting first-time use of marijuana (2002-2010), and now the trend is reversing as evidenced by this recent PATS study. We believe this steady increase is likely impacted by the perception that marijuana is socially acceptable and non-addictive. We know this is simply not true.”


DrugFreeAz.org is a member alliance of The Partnership at DrugFree.org. With its mission to prevent and reduce youth drug and alcohol use through community education and awareness, the organization provides parents, teens, caregivers, healthcare providers, educators and others with education tools, information and resources.


Nationally, the most concerning marijuana trends seen from the PATS study includes:

  • Past-month use is up 42 percent (up from 19 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2011, which translates to about 4 million teens).
  • Past-year use is up 26 percent (up from 31 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2011, which translates to about 6 million teens).
  • Lifetime use is up 21 percent (up from 39 percent in 2008 to 47 percent in 2011, which translates to nearly 8 million teens).


The PATS study has also shown that 71 percent of teens say they have friends who use marijuana regularly (up from 64 percent in 2008). Those who are “heavy” users are also significantly more likely than teens that have not used marijuana in the past year to:

  • Use cocaine/crack (30 times more likely)
  • Use ecstasy (20 times more likely)
  • Abuse prescription pain relievers (15 times more likely)
  • Abuse over-the-counter medicines (14 times more likely)


While the new PATS data did not show similar increases in teen abuse of medicines, prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) drug abuse remains at unacceptably high levels – with Arizona being double that of the national average for prescription pain reliever abuse among 12th graders (23% AZ. vs. 10% nationally).   


Lack of communication from parents and an increase in use of Rx medications by parents (a 25 percent increase from 2010 to 2011) has also shown to be a contributing factor to these behaviors, as fewer parents report communicating the risks of getting high via prescription medicines with their children.


“Parents can help prevent their child’s drug use and, if their child is in trouble, get them help right away” said Bloom. “DrugFreeAz.org has a variety of online resources with tips for parents on how to talk with their kids about these issues and how they can prevent substance use in their home.”


DrugFreeAz.org’s downloadable drug guide offers the most current and accurate information about specific drugs, including marijuana, synthetic drugs and prescription drugs. The website is also a resource via its Video Learning Center, featuring real-life stories from Arizona parents and teens; pages such as DrugFreeAz.org/Rx, which provides parents with information and tools on how to prevent prescription medicine abuse in their home; and programs such as AZ Parents Connect, which offers Guiding Good Choices workshops – for parents and grandparents raising grandkids – and “Your Child Needs You” brochures in both English and Spanish.


The Partnership at DrugFree.org, in collaboration with the Philadelphia-based Treatment Research Institute (TRI), has also released a new tool to help parents and caregivers possibly prevent adolescent drug and alcohol problems. The “Six Components of Effective Parenting,” based on scientific research, is the product of the new Parents Translational Research Center – a National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded center involving The Partnership at DrugFree.org and TRI. The resource is comprised of “how-to” parenting tips organized around six principles specifically designed for parents, guardians and other caregivers who can play an active role in helping prevent substance abuse in their families.


For more information on DrugFreeAz.org visit www.DrugFreeAz.org or call (602) 264-5700.


About PATS Methodology:

The 23rd Annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) of 3,322 teens in grades 9-12 and 821 parents is nationally projectable with a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error for the teen sample and +/- 3.4 percent for the parent sample. Conducted for The Partnership at Drugfree.org and MetLife Foundation by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications, the 2011 PATS teen survey was administered in private, public and parochial schools, while the parent survey was conducted through in-home interviews by deKadt Marketing and Research, Inc. 


About DrugFreeAz.org: 

DrugFreeAz.org - The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Arizona Affiliate is a 501(c) (3) non-profit statewide organization with a volunteer board of directors. Their mission is to prevent and reduce youth drug and alcohol use through community education and awareness by providing parents, caregivers, healthcare providers, educators and others with educational tools, information and resources.

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About The Partnership at Drugfree.org: 

Ninety percent of addictions start in the teenage years. The Partnership at Drugfree.org is dedicated to solving the problem of teen substance abuse. Together with experts in science, parenting and communications, the nonprofit translates research on teen behavior, addiction and treatment into useful and effective resources for both individuals and communities. Working toward a vision where all young people will be able to live their lives free of drug and alcohol abuse, The Partnership at Drugfree.org works with parents and other influencers to help them prevent and get help for drug and alcohol abuse by teens and young adults. The organization depends on donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and the public sector and is thankful to SAG/AFTRA and the advertising and media industries for their ongoing generosity.


About MetLife Foundation: 

MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 to continue MetLife’s longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. Our commitment to building a secure future for individuals and communities worldwide is reflected in our dedication to empowering older adults, preparing young people and building livable communities. Since it was established, MetLife Foundation has provided more than $530 million in grants to nonprofit organizations addressing issues that have a positive impact in their communities. For more information visit www.metlife.org