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Marijuana use among youth “skyrocketing” — reasons, drug safety and prevention strategies

July 1, 2024
Close-up of a person rolling a marijuana joint, emphasizing the theme of 'marijuana use among youth.

Marijuana use among youth “skyrocketing” — reasons, drug safety and prevention strategies


Marijuana use among youth “skyrocketing” — reasons, drug safety and prevention strategies

Recently, you may have seen an interesting new finding hit the news — marijuana use is now more prevalent than alcohol consumption in America. This is particularly noticeable with marijuana use among youth.

This raises important questions about public health, safety, and the implications for our youth. And as behavioral health professionals and substance use disorder treatment providers, we feel compelled to address this shift. 

What are the reasons for this trend? How safe is marijuana really? And how can we ensure we will keep our children and teenagers safe? Read on to discover the answer to all these questions and more. 

Top view of a table with various marijuana paraphernalia, including a tin of cannabis, a grinder, rolling papers, a lighter, headphones, and a smartphone, with multiple hands reaching in, highlighting 'marijuana use among youth.

The changing trend of marijuana use among youth

What are the specifics of this change in marijuana use among youth? One article to report on it was this NPR segment, referring to a study that compares data from the yearly National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 1979 to 2022. Researchers found that the number of daily or near-daily users of marijuana had skyrocketed, while the number of daily or near-daily drinkers fell.

The first question this shift raises is, what is its cause? As the article points out as well, there are a few main reasons: 

1. Greater acceptance

One thing we can observe is that there is much greater acceptance of marijuana. In fact, Dr. Pearlson points out in the NPR piece that more people now approve of marijuana than same-sex marriage. However, it’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that more people are using. It could just be that more people now admit to using as they won’t be judged for it. 

Greater acceptance of marijuana use among youth may be worrying for some. But it has some very positive effects: we can’t deal with any issue until we acknowledge it. That’s why we at RevCore focus so much on creating a judgment-free space, where our clients can freely share their experiences. That’s what ultimately allows us to provide them with the best and most effective support possible. 

2. Boom of legalization

Another noteworthy factor for increased marijuana use among youth is that it is now legal in about half of American states. Therefore, it is easier for people to access and try. A study confirms that legalization does in fact lead to increased use. But again, some of this trend may be due to more people simply admitting to using, as they don’t fear prosecution. 

3. Perception of safety

As readers who grew up in the D.A.R.E. age may notice the most, we can notice a stark change in the perception of marijuana over time, with it being considered quite safe nowadays. And as Dr. Pearlson pointed out in the NPR segment, perception of safety is strongly linked to willingness to consume a drug, and also to admitting to using it. 

Silhouette of a marijuana leaf against a sunset background, symbolizing 'marijuana use among youth.

How safe is marijuana really?

As we have already mentioned, marijuana is currently considered a relatively safe drug — by some, even completely harmless. It is true that in the broad spectrum of recreational drugs, it is one with some of the mildest effects and least dangers. But there are a few important aspects to consider in order to understand the full picture of marijuana use safety. 

1. “Legal” doesn’t automatically mean “safe”

Part of the reason why marijuana is considered safer now is the fact that it has become legal. There is a perception of safety in legalization. However, we must recognize that alcohol is also legal, and it is one of the most lethal things you can put in your body. (Even not including drunk driving fatalities and accidents caused by intoxication.)

Legalization does have some positive outcomes: for example, it has eased some prior burdens placed upon BIPOC people. People of color are no longer being disproportionately persecuted for marijuana infractions. However, one thing legalization does not change is the effects (and risks) or a drug.

2. Exaggerating the dangers is counterproductive

As Dr. Pearlson explains in the NPR piece, when the risks of a drug are exaggerated, people can become skeptical and dismiss them. Perhaps they may even believe there are no dangers at all. This is another factor that can change perceived safety of marijuana use among youth.

3. There are still risks

Although marijuana is indeed relatively safe all things considered, it is necessary to point out that there are still risks. Being aware of them can help inform safe use of marijuana and when to avoid it. 

Here are some circumstances that may place an individual at higher risk when consuming marijuana. 

Prevention strategies for marijuana use among youth

As Dr. Pearlson pointed out in the NPR piece, “human beings have a drive to intoxicate themselves and alter their mental states, and if you have to choose a drug to do that, then cannabis is certainly in the running.” But as he also states, when quantity and frequency and the strength of the drug all conspire to give people more of it than is good for them, that’s never a good thing — and there are always risks, some of which we covered above.

So what is the solution?

As we pointed out above, exaggerating the risks of a drug is counterproductive. Therefore, if we want to keep our children and ourselves safe, we must be realistic about what marijuana actually does, to whom, and under what circumstances. 

That’s what we at RevCore are all about — total transparency and zero judgment. We meet our clients where they are at and give them clear information that helps them make an informed decision about what is best for them. 

Do you know someone who could use holistic substance use treatment in a judgment-free space? Connect them with RevCore at (212) 966-9537 or at info@revcorerecovery.com.

And please be sure to forward this article to anyone who could benefit from the information we have shared. You never know how something as simple as that can change the course of someone’s life. 

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