A new survey says kids are smoking and drinking less than they have in the past 30 years, but they’re smoking more pot than ever before. One line of reasoning is that the availability of medical marijuana is to blame (which is a faulty line of logic, if you ask me), but in any case, I say: Thank god kids are using pot instead of alcohol and cigarettes. If they’re going to experiment and rebel (which generation after generation suggests they are), today’s teens are on the right track.
The survey, from Monitoring the Future, reveals trends in the drug use of 47,000 kids in eighth, 10th and 12th grades. Here are some key findings:
- 13% of eighth graders said they’d used alcohol within the past 30 days, down from 26% in 1991.
- Cigarette use was down in all three age groups; 11.7% said they’d smoked in the past 30 days.
- 25% said they’d used marijuana in the past year (up from 21.4% in 2007).
- 1 in 15 of high school seniors said they used pot daily or almost daily (the highest rate since 1981).
- 11% of high school seniors said they’d tried synthetic marijuana.
Before I tell you why I think these are inspiring trends, let me first say that in an ideal world, teenagers would abstain from pot, alcohol, and cigarettes, along with any other drugs (legal or not). But this being the real world, and not a hypothetical health dream land where adolescent experimentation and self-discovery can play out through journaling and art class, I have to say: I think today’s teens are generally on a better path than their forbears.
Experimenting with pot and other drugs is something that often starts in high school…and ends in college. But alcohol and cigarettes are habits that stick; they’re highly addictive, and come with serious long-term health effects, especially by comparison to marijuana.
Of course, marijuana isn’t 100% benign: Studies still remain mostly inconclusive (probably because it’s not legal, or widely used like alcohol and cigarettes), but I’m going to side with people who argue that pot has negative effects, especially when you smoke it daily. Mainly that it skyrockets your chances of becoming a deadbeat who never graduates. And some studies show that it can have a negative impact on cognitive development in kids. But still: How many stories do you hear about families getting killed by teenagers who were smoking pot behind the wheel? How often are women raped because they smoked so much pot at a party that they couldn’t consent to sex? How many people do you know who have lung cancer because they smoke an ounce a day? Those things aren’t impossible, but honestly: They’re not the problems plaguing our society.
I’m not saying kids should be inhaling pot with their morning cereal, but if kids are going to experiment with any of the most widely available drugs (which if we’re being honest, they are), I’d say that today’s teens are making the better choice.