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Preventing Underage Marijuana Use

Young people start using marijuana for many reasons. Curiosity, peer pressure, and the desire to fit in with friends are common ones. Those who have already begun to smoke cigarettes or use alcohol or have untreated mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD), or have experienced trauma are at increased risk for marijuana use.

People smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints) or pipes or water pipes (bongs). They also smoke it in blunts—emptied cigars that have been partly or completely refilled with marijuana. To avoid inhaling smoke, some people are using vaporizers. These devices pull the active ingredients (including THC) from marijuana and collect their vapor in a storage unit. A person then inhales the vapor, not the smoke. Some vaporizers use liquid marijuana extract.

People can mix marijuana in food (edibles), such as brownies, cookies, or candy, or brew it as tea. A newly popular method of use is smoking or eating different forms of THC-rich resins.*

Findings from the 2019 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey demonstrate the appeal of vaping to teens, as seen in the increased prevalence of marijuana use and nicotine vaping. Results from the 45th annual MTF survey, a nationally representative sample of eighth, 10th, and 12th graders in hundreds of U.S. schools, were announced today by the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, along with the University of Michigan scientist who leads the research team. The self-report survey is given annually to students who respond to questions about their drug use and attitudes.

Past year vaping of marijuana, which has more than doubled in the past two years, was reported at 20.8% among 12th graders, with 10th graders not far behind at 19.4% and eighth-graders at 7.0%. Past month marijuana vaping among 12th graders nearly doubled in a single year to 14% from 7.5%–the second-largest one-year jump ever tracked for any substance in the history of the survey. (The largest was from 2017-2018, with past month nicotine vaping among 12th graders). In addition, for the first time, the survey measured daily marijuana vaping, which was reported at 3.5%  among 12th graders, 3.0% among 10th graders, and 0.8% among eighth-graders. The MTF investigators documented more detailed findings on teen vaping of marijuana in a research letter(link is external) released today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. High rates of nicotine vaping reported in the MTF survey were released in September.

Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug by adolescents. After remaining mostly stable for many years, daily use of marijuana went up significantly since 2018 among eighth and 10th graders–now at 1.3% and 4.8%, respectively. However, overall past-year marijuana use rates remain steady among teens (35.7% among 12th graders; 28.8% among 10th graders; and 11.8% among eighth-graders).**

Side Effects of Using Marijuana

Unlike adults, the teen brain is actively developing and often will not be fully developed until the mid-20s. Marijuana use during this period may harm the developing teen brain. Some of these effects include:

  • Difficulty thinking and problem-solving.

  • Problems with memory and learning.

  • Impaired coordination.

  • Difficulty maintaining attention.

Marijuana use in adolescence or early adulthood can also have a serious impact on a teen’s life.

  • The decline in school performance. Students who smoke marijuana may get lower grades and may more likely to drop out of high school than their peers who do not use it.

  • Increased risk of mental health issues. Marijuana use has been linked to a range of mental health problems in teens such as depression or anxiety.  Psychosis has also been seen in teens at higher risk, like those with a family history.

  • Impaired driving. Driving while impaired by any substance, including marijuana, is dangerous. Marijuana negatively affects the skills required for safe driving, such as reaction time, coordination, and concentration.

  • Potential for addiction.  Research shows that about 1 in 6 teens who repeatedly use marijuana can become addicted, which means that they may make unsuccessful efforts to quit using marijuana or may give up important activities with friends and family in favor of using marijuana.***

Tips on Preventing Marijuana Use

Research shows when students become confused about the consequences of teen substance use. They are more likely to use than a child who is clear about these issues. To reverse this risk and protect our teens, we must know the truth and consistently speak about it with them.  Identify common misconceptions students hold about marijuana use and learn health-based realities behind these misconceptions. 

Below are some free resources to assist in this process:



* Source: Content on this page was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse - Marijuana Facts -

**Source: Content on this page was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse -

*** Source: Content on this page was provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention - What You Need to Know about Marijuana Use in Teens -

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