New research shows that marijuana use actually decreases the use of chemical narcotics and alcohol.
With all the rhetoric on the far right about how marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to use of chemical drugs, these findings are sure to be controversial and disputed. The push to decriminalize social marijuana use federally has gained much support in the last decade and conservatives have mounted a significant slander-campaign to slow down this trend.
States like California with medical marijuana mandates, lead the country with jumps in usage.
Although it is difficult to track the numbers, “we’re clearly seeing an increase in teenage marijuana use that corresponds pretty clearly in time with the increase in medical marijuana use,” said Dr. Christian Thurstone, medical director of the adolescent substance abuse treatment program at Denver Health and Hospital Authority, who was not involved in the study. Medical marijuana is legal in 16 states, including Colorado, and the District of Columbia.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) surveyed over 46,000 students nationwide. They found that 25 percent of 8th, 10th and 12th graders reported using marijuana in the past year, up from about 21 percent in 2007.
While interest in marijuana has climbed, the use of other drugs has waned. The report found declines in the use of crack, cocaine, over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, sedatives, tranquilizers and prescription drugs like Adderall and the narcotic painkiller Vicodin.
In addition to that, heavy drinking among high school students has also fallen over the past 20 years, the report found. From 1991 to 2011, the proportion of eighth graders who reported drinking in the previous 30 days fell by about half, to 13 percent from 25 percent. Among 10th graders, it has fallen by more than a third, to 27 percent from 43 percent, and among 12th graders by about a fourth, to 40 percent from 54 percent. The percentage of students who reported binge drinking fell by a third, to 13.6 percent from 20 percent.
What this shows us is that increasing access to marijuana reduces the dependency on addictive substances such as alcohol and chemical drugs.
While these findings are reassuring, people on both sides of the argument agree that teenagers are not responsible enough to use any form of controlled substances at all. The NIH in no way encourages the use of marijuana by juveniles.
Adults are also encouraged to abandon smoking and find less harmful ways to use marijuana such as baking and in some cases pill form.