Since 1975 the “Monitoring the Future” study has recorded the self-reported use of various substances by middle and high school students. Each year it reveals what is really going on with teen drug use. In 2011 47,000 teens participated with interesting results. Although many, including the US Drug Czar, took the findings as negative and just one more way to attack cannabis use what it revealed was more proof that teens just like most of us want to do what is best for our bodies.
Many Americans today have tried or use cannabis with no adverse side effects. During the 90s there was a huge push with D.A.R.E. and other programs that educated school children on all dangers of drugs. With the population becoming more educated on the actual dangers associated with cigarettes, alcohol and other harmful substances we have seen a shift in use. People including teens have also realized the real harms and benefits of cannabis as well.
With this realization people have turned to cannabis with its relatively mild side effects and no lasting damage or threat of death. Data backs up that use of harmful substances such as cocaine, steroids and heroin have steadily fallen down almost 50% from peak. Alcohol and tobacco use is down 50% as well actually reaching historic lows. It would seem that the population of teens have weighed out the dangers and chosen for themselves.
Cannabis use by contrast in the last four years has increased but not noticeably. Some wonder then why many saw this report as a call to action against cannabis. Some blamed the medical use movement for not only exposure but access as well. This argument does not entirely hold up. Medical marijuana was in the mainstream media and nation-wide topic in 1996 when CA first tried to legalize for patients. Access for minors in states that have legalized has been restricted and taken crime off the streets.
In 2011 it was reported that 6.6% reported consuming cannabis daily which is greater than previously reported. The attitude towards cannabis by teens as a whole has also changed with about 45% of them viewing cannabis as harmful. That is a huge difference considering in the early 90s it was at 80%. One caveat is that during the time from the early 90s and throughout most of 2000 teen use of cannabis also fell.
Anyone who lives in the real world will attest that you can only shield your children for so long before you have to let go and let them make their own choices. When it comes to that point all the training that they have received will guide them. Teens will always party and always break the rules. We will never live in a society where there is not a teenage party going on somewhere. While I don’t support teen use of cannabis, when weighing out the harms against use of alcohol and other harmful substances I would rather see teens choose a natural plant that does not cause death.
There of course are risks with using cannabis not only from using the drug but also the consequential side effects and one’s actions. The earlier in one’s life cannabis is used the more potential there is for risks. With that, when weighing out the cons, the potential risks of using cannabis is far less severe than many other substances including prescriptions.
While Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and other national media look negatively at the study others walk away with a sense of pride that our nation’s youth are choosing more wisely. Today more people, including teens, perceive cannabis to be less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. Someday our leaders will see the light and come to the same conclusion as the rest of us. The War on Drugs has made cannabis an evil that is not neccessary.
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