Cigarette smoking is out but pot use is in among the nation's teenagers, who also report a higher use of prescription painkillers and a waning perception about the risk of illicit drugs, a federal study on students has found.
As more states move to approve medical marijuana, and pot legalization and decriminalization become more mainstream in the national discussion, teens seem more accepting of pot use, according to a study released Monday by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The national survey, "Monitoring the Future," was conducted by the University of Michigan and queried 47,097 students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades.
It found that one-fifth of seniors - 20.6 percent - reported using marijuana in the previous month, up from 18.3 percent in 2006. High school sophomores' pot smoking rose from 13.8 percent in 2008 to 15.9 percent this year, statistics that researchers said should capture the nation's attention.
"So far, we have not seen any dramatic rise in marijuana use, but the upward trending of the past two or three years stands in stark contrast to the steady decline that preceded it for nearly a decade," said Lloyd Johnston, who serves as principal investigator on the Michigan study, which has tracked teen drug use since 1975.
"Not only is use rising, but a key belief about the degree of risk associated with marijuana use has been in decline among young people even longer, and the degree to which teens disapprove of use of the drug has recently begun to decline," Mr. Johnston said. "Changes in these beliefs and attitudes are often very influential in driving changes in use."
Judy Kreamer, president of Educating Voices Inc., a nonprofit drug-education and drug-prevention organization in Naperville, Ill., called the survey results "very disturbing" but said they come as no surprise given the messages that advocates have sent youths in recent years.