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Teen marijuana use increases

By Lauren Williams
On September 28, 2012

The results of the Pride Student Drug Use Survey, conducted by the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati, show that alcohol and tobacco use are declining among teens, while marijuana use has increased.

Mary Haag, president and CEO of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati, said this is a biannual survey conducted over the past twelve years in the Cincinnati region. This is the first year, however, that the survey contained questions on the non-medical use of prescription drugs. The specifics of the prescription drug-related survey results will be part of a deep-dive analysis released in November of this year, Haag said.

The 43 percent decline since 2000 in alcohol and tobacco use among teens is not the only encouraging statistic to come out of the survey.

"Parental disapproval [of drug and alcohol use] is a key indicator that we track over time," Haag said. "And that has improved as well."

Since 2000, parental disapproval has increased by 7 percent for alcohol, 8 percent by tobacco and 7 percent for marijuana, Haag said.

Another indicator that the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati evaluates is whether teens think their friends would disapprove if they were using alcohol, tobacco or marijuana. In the survey, 65.7 percent of teens believe their peers would disapprove of drug and alcohol use, a 14.4 percent jump from survey results in 2004.

A large portion of the survey measures environmental factors in teens' lives, such as academic success and involvement in alternative activities.

"Our whole coalition approach is that there [are] multiple influences in a child's environment," Haag said. "They all have an impact on what the norm is, what the availability is."

The most adverse survey result is the increase in teens who believe marijuana is not harmful to one's health. According to the Butler County Coalition, there was a 4.9 percent drop since 2004 in the amount of teens that believe marijuana is harmful.

"We've got to really put forth a strong effort to get information [out] about what the effects of marijuana use are in the short term and also in the long term," said Karen Murray, Director of the Butler County Coalition. "And also the implications of passing legislation that would legalize it for medicinal purposes."

Because of the results of the survey, the Butler County Coalition will put the negative effects of marijuana use at the forefront of their campaigns.

"It's got to become a part of our daily work plan," Murray said. "Making sure we get the information back out there that marijuana isn't harmless."

Butler County residents will see more activity at the county and local level working on this marijuana issue, Murray said.

Miami University junior Anna Hartman, who reported about teen marijuana use in the Lakota East High School newsmagazine, said she was shocked at the high numbers she saw in the surveys of her peers.

"I remember talking to my friends like, 'Wow. Did you think that many people would have smoked pot before?'" Hartman said.

Hartman noted, though, that there is a difference in the amount of exposure to anti-drug campaigns that teens experience today than when she was in high school.

"I see a lot more 'Above the Influence' ads on Facebook and TV," Hartman said. "A lot more than I remember seeing even just a few years ago."

Hartman said that these ads can play a role in shaping parents' approach with encouraging their kids to make good decisions.

She said that these campaigns, though not always effective are still beneficial for young people.

"It's just a message that you hear a lot [and] become familiar with," Hartman said. "And not that they are the most persuasive advertisements in the world, but I do think they are effective in communicating that it's okay to say no."

Murray is the former director of Health Education at Miami and helped established AfterDark.

"We need to support programs like this because you get these kids that want to make healthier life choices," Murray said. "We've got to have these social venues for them."

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