Today, new data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS), an annual survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Prevention (CDC) confirms concerning trends when it comes to substance abuse, especially marijuana use, in high school students.
Notably, the data finds that lifetime marijuana use is the number one risk factor for prescription opioid misuse.
“This survey confirms a trend we have been noticing: every other drug among young people is going down with the exception of marijuana. There’s a reason for that: the mass commercialization and normalization of today’s high potency marijuana in this country,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former three-time White House drug policy advisor.
“One data point that should ring alarm bells is the fact that having ever used marijuana was the top risk factor to misusing prescription opioids in the past month. We have to understand that drug use does not happen in a vacuum – co-use is a real phenomenon.”
In fact, the CDC report states:
“Specifically, the high rates of co-occurring substance use, especially alcohol and marijuana use, among students currently misusing prescription opioids highlights the importance of prevention efforts that focus on general substance use risk and protective factors. Notably, these associations are not limited to high school students because binge drinking and marijuana use are associated with increased prescription opioid misuse among both adults and adolescents…”
According to the data, 21.7% of high schoolers report marijuana use and the most common substances used were alcohol and marijuana. 17.1% of 9th and tenth graders reported marijuana use while 26.6% of eleventh and twelfth graders reported marijuana use.
Furthermore, 43.5% of students who reported currently abusing prescription opioids also reported currently using marijuana.
While use rates of most drugs amongst high schoolers are dropping, marijuana use either remains steady or is increasing, according to the data.
“This CDC survey should be a wake-up call about the public health epidemic that is mass marijuana use among young people,” continued Dr. Sabet. “It can no longer be ignored.”