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Teen problems with pot declining

With more U.S. states legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use, the number of adults using the drug has increased. But a survey of more than 216,000 adolescents from all 50 states indicates the rates of marijuana use are falling among the young. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis examined data on drug use collected from young people and found that the number of adolescents who had problems related to marijuana declined by 24 percent between 2002 and 2013.

Over the same period the number of kids reporting they used marijuana at all fell by 10 percent.

AS SEVERAL STATES HAVE MADE USING MARIJUANA LEGAL, AT LEAST FOR MEDICINAL PURPOSES, SOME HAVE WORRIED THAT THE NUMBER OF YOUNG PEOPLE USING MARIJUANA WILL INCREASE, BUT RESEARCHERS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS HAVE FOUND THAT THE NUMBER OF AMERICAN KIDS BETWEEN 12 AND 17 WHO USE MARIJUANA IS ACTUALLY DECLINING. SO IS THE NUMBER OF ADOLESCENTS WHO HAVE MARIJUANA-RELATED PROBLEMS. JIM DRYDEN HAS THE STORY…

AS THE NUMBER OF STATES LEGALIZING MEDICAL MARIJUANA, AND EVEN RECREATIONAL USE OF THE DRUG, HAS INCREASED IN RECENT YEARS, THE NUMBER OF AMERICAN TEENAGERS REPORTING THAT THEY USE POT HAS BEEN DECLINING. WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY RESEARCHERS LEARNED THAT WHEN THEY ANALYZED DATA ABOUT POT THAT WAS GATHERED FROM MORE THAN 200 THOUSAND KIDS, AGES 12-17, IN THE YEARS BETWEEN 2002 AND 2013. LEAD INVESTIGATOR RICHARD GRUCZA SAYS ALTHOUGH THERE WERE UPS AND DOWNS FROM YEAR TO YEAR, DURING THAT 12-YEAR PERIOD, THE NUMBER OF KIDS WHO REPORTED THAT THEY’D USED MARIJUANA DECLINED.

(act) :10 o/c marijuana use

That number went up and down over the 12-year period

encompassed by the study, but on the whole, it went down by

10 percent. The net decline was 10 percent in marijuana use.

IN ADDITION, THE NUMBER OF ADOLESCENTS WHO HAD PROBLEMS RELATED TO MARIJUANA DECLINED EVEN MORE.

(act) :16 o/c with use

Probably the more impressive result was the fact that we

actually saw a 25 percent decrease in marijuana use disorder.

So that means, not only is the number of teenagers using

marijuana going down a little bit, but the number who use are

also less likely to report having problems with use.

AND GRUCZA SAYS TO BE CONSIDERED A MARIJUANA-USE DISORDER, THE PROBLEM HAS TO BE PRETTY SERIOUS.

(act) :13 o/c of problems

So the proportion of adolescents reporting problems with the

law, inability to quit, interference with their social or

educational functioning or similar types of problems.

GRUCZA SAYS THE RESULTS WERE SURPRISING, NOT ONLY THAT PROBLEMS WITH MARIJUANA DECLINED, BUT ALSO HOW SHARP THOSE DECLINES WERE.

(act) :24 o/c in life

And we can’t say that the policies don’t matter because,

you know, maybe we’d have seen larger declines had we kept

these stricter marijuana-use policies. But I think what it

does tell us is that there are other issues related to

adolescent behavior that are probably contributing to

marijuana-use disorder on the whole, and maybe we can address

those problems earlier in life.

THE RESEARCHERS ALSO NOTICED THAT SOMETHING ELSE DECLINED DURING THE YEARS OF THE STUDY: BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS. GRUCZA SAYS KIDS REPORTED THAT THEY GOT INTO FEWER FIGHTS. THEY WERE LESS LIKELY TO SELL DRUGS OR TO BRING A WEAPON TO SCHOOL. THOSE SORTS OF DELINQUENCY AND CONDUCT PROBLEMS ARE FREQUENTLY LINKED TO MARIJUANA USE AND ABUSE. BUT FOR TEENAGERS IN THE UNITED STATES, ALL OF THOSE PROBLEMS WERE DOWN DURING THE STUDY PERIOD.

(act) :21 o/c pediatric population

We’re seeing the prevalence of these behavior problems go down,

and typically, the sorts of behaviors we’re looking at have their

roots earlier in life. By mid childhood, you can really, kind of,

predict who’s going to go on to have legal problems or get into a

lot of fights, and things like that. One possibility is that we’re

simply seeing better mental health treatments in the pediatric population.

GRUCZA AND HIS COLLEAGUES REPORT THEIR FINDINGS IN THE JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF CHILD & ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRY. I’M JIM DRYDEN…

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