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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

UNMC: Study Highlights Importance of Marijuana Prevention Among Youth

“Public opinion on marijuana use has changed dramatically, and restrictions on marijuana use have been relaxing,” wrote Dr. Hongying Dai, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) College of Public Health. “Currently, 33 states and the District of Columbia have laws in place that allow marijuana to be used medically, recreationally, or both.”

Dr. Dai and colleagues from the UNMC College of Public Health conducted a study which looked at 1991-2017 U.S. federal health data on more than 200,000 high school students. It found that the number who said they’d used pot at least once over the past month rose 10-fold — from 0.6 percent in 1991 to 6.3 percent by 2017.

Many are becoming “dual users” of both marijuana and alcohol: The number of teens who admit to using both substances at least once a month has almost doubled — from 3.6 percent in 1991 to 7.6 percent in 2017. Study author Dr. Dai believes changing social mores and legislation has been a big factor in this change.

However, teens are increasingly turning away from cancer-causing cigarettes and other combustible tobacco. The study shows teen smoking has dropped from 4.4 percent percent of high school students in 1991 to just 1.3 percent today. Teens are drinking much less, too, with alcohol use falling from about 24 percent of teens in 1991 to 12.5 percent in 2017.

Still, the “surge” in marijuana use is troubling, Dr. Dai said, and “highlights the importance of marijuana prevention among youth.”

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