New statistics reveal that the number of American teenagers that smoke cigarettes has dropped by 64 percent in recent years. The same report also shows that the number of teens who are smoking pot has doubled.
Unfortunately, just because the percentage of kids who smoke cigarettes has dropped considerably, plenty are still lighting up. A full 30 percent of white, black and Hispanic teens smoked cigarettes, cigars or marijuana in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. The researchers tracked teen smoking rates from 1997 to 2013.
"The nation's remarkable progress in reducing youth smoking since 1997 is great news, but the battle is far from over," said Vince Willmore, vice president for communications at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
"This study reminds us that we know exactly what to do to further reduce smoking: increase tobacco taxes, enact smoke-free laws, fund effective prevention programs and implement hard-hitting mass media campaigns. These proven strategies must be continued and strengthened," Willmore added.
Researchers called for more targeted prevention programs and policies to get the word to adolescents out on the dangers of smoking.
Overall, the number of teens who smoked cigarettes or cigars dropped from 20.5 percent to slightly more than 7 percent, while marijuana use went from 4 percent to 10 percent, the report found.
Notably, marijuana use jumped from 51 percent to 62 percent among those teens who smoked cigarettes or cigars, the findings showed.
Marijuana use has increased as states make it either legal or more acceptable with reduced penalties.
Dr. Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, believes that more acceptance of marijuana as a harmless drug is driving its increased use among teens.
"Over the last 10 or 15 years, there has been a change in public perception of marijuana," he said. "There is the idea that marijuana is not something you need to worry about."
Marijuana use in teens hasn’t been researched much over the years, because it’s been illegal. Marijuana studies in adults have been going on for some time and especially during the last couple of decades. Health concerns about pot use and teens are beginning to emerge.
McAfee noted there is research showing that pot has a negative effect on developing brains and that some kids can become dependent on it.
“Nothing is being done” McAfee said, in terms of a tobacco-like campaign telling kids not to use marijuana or with information about the possible side effects.
The report was published in the October edition of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In 2014, a study was released looking at the research done over the past 20 years on marijuana use, highlighting the drug’s adverse effects, both acute and chronic.
The study maps out exactly what marijuana does and does not do to the body and brain, both in the short and long terms. What’s clear is that marijuana has a number of adverse effects over years of use – in certain people, anyway. What’s not so clear is how policy should be informed by the science.
The acute effects show that driving while high on marijuana does seem to double the risk of a car crash, which is of course heightened if there is also alcohol in the system. Marijuana has been linked to low birth weight when it is used during pregnancy.
Otherwise, acute effects mainly include anxiety, paranoia (especially among new users), dysphoria, cognitive impairment, and psychotic symptoms (especially in people with a family history of psychosis).
Many of these particular side effects seem to have risen over the last 20 years, which may be due to the fact that the THC content in marijuana has also risen over that time.
THC is the chemical in marijuana that is most responsible for the drug’s psychological effects.
The chronic or long-term effects are much more troubling than the acute.
As in the case of nearly all-scientific studies, causation is difficult to prove – but a correlation is evident.
Here’s what the study by Wayne Hall, Director and Inaugural Chair at the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at The University of Queensland, Australia, reveals.
Marijuana can be addictive. But only for some people. About 10% of all users seem to develop dependence syndrome, and for those who start in adolescence, the number is more like 1 in 6. Withdrawal syndrome is also a real phenomenon, with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and appetite disturbance being the main symptoms, which can often be severe enough to have an effect on daily life.
Marijuana use is linked to adverse cognitive effects. In particular, the drug is linked to reduced learning, memory, and attention. It hasn’t been entirely clear whether these effects persist after a person stops using the drug, but there’s some evidence that it does. One study found a reduction in IQ of 8 points in long-time users, the greatest decline being in people who’d started using as teenagers and continued daily into adulthood. For people who began in adulthood and eventually stopped using, a reduction in IQ was not seen a year later.
Marijuana may change brain structure and function. There’s been an ongoing debate about whether marijuana actually changes the brain, but recent evidence has suggested that it is linked to changes in the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. It’s unclear, however, how long these effects last, whether they’re linked to behavioral changes, and whether they reverse after a person stops using the drug.
Regular use is linked to an increased risk of psychotic symptoms. That marijuana is linked to increased psychotic symptoms (e.g., delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking) is fairly clear. But again, it’s been a chicken-and-egg problem, since it’s hard to show whether causation is at play, and which way the connection goes. However, it’s likely that the relationship actually goes both ways: Marijuana may lead to psychotic symptoms, and early psychotic symptoms may increase the likelihood that a person will smoke marijuana (particularly if there’s a family history of psychotic disorders).
Marijuana is linked to lower educational attainment. When pot smoking begins in adolescence, people tend to go less far in school – but again, a causal relationship hasn’t been demonstrated.
Marijuana may (or may not be) be a gateway drug. Regular teenage marijuana users are more likely to use other drugs in the future – but again, researchers don’t know whether the link is causal.
Marijuana is probably – but modestly – linked to schizophrenia. The study found that marijuana is connected to a doubled risk of a schizophrenia diagnosis in the future. Many previous studies have suggested this connection, but, as always, showing causality is hard. The new study cites a number of well-executed studies that suggest a causal relationship between marijuana and schizophrenia. The authors estimate that marijuana use may double the risk of schizophrenia from 7 in 1000 non-users to 14 in 1000 marijuana users. On the upside, they point out that users who quit using the drug after a first psychotic episode have fewer psychotic symptoms and better social functioning moving forward, compared to people who have a psychotic episode but continue using.
Marijuana may be linked to testicular cancer. Its connection to other forms of cancer is not very consistent, but there’s some evidence of an increased risk of testicular cancer in long-term marijuana users.
Regular users may have cardiopulmonary issues. Regular marijuana users have a higher risk of developing chronic bronchitis. Marijuana “probably” increases the risk of heart attack in middle age, but it’s hard to know for sure, since many users also smoke cigarettes.
The authors of this particular study were careful not to argue for or against the legalization of marijuana except to say that its legalization should be done with safeties in place.
This 2014 study was published in the journal Addiction.
Sources: Steven Reinberg, http://consumer.healthday.com/public-health-information-30/marijuana-news-759/fewer-teens-smoking-cigarettes-but-twice-as-many-now-smoke-pot-cdc-704275.html
Alice G. Walton, http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2014/10/07/what-20-years-of-research-has-taught-us-about-the-chronic-effects-of-marijuana/