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Researchers Say More Young People Are Selecting Marijuana As Their First Drug

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Teens who take drugs used to choose tobacco or alcohol first, but a new study suggests that some teens today are gravitating toward marijuana first.

The Findings Of The Marijuana Teen Study

A new study has revealed that young people today are more likely to select marijuana as their first drug. Some of them might eventually end up trying alcohol or tobacco in later years.

The study was published on May 17 in the journal Prevention Science.

The researchers also discovered that young people who start their drug use with marijuana are more likely to continue with it later in life and have cannabis-related problems.

Young men were more likely to smoke marijuana as their first drug as compared to young women. Among race, users were more likely to be Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, or multiracial.

"Our findings suggest important targets for public health intervention and prevention of marijuana use, especially among American Indian/Alaska Native and Black youth, who are less likely to have access to treatment or successful treatment outcomes," said study coauthor Brian Fairman, who is part of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

In 2017, a study found that marijuana use among teens decreased in states where it was legalized.

Teens Prefer Marijuana

The researchers explored data from more than 275,000 people aged 12 to 21 who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2004 and 2014. According to their findings, 8 percent of participants in 2014 said marijuana was their first drug, compared to just 4.8 percent in 2004. In those same years, the number of participants who first tried tobacco decreased from 21 percent to 9 percent.

In those same years, the number of people who used alcohol as their first drug remained constant at 30 percent.

As an interesting note, the number of participants reporting no drug use increased from 35.5 percent to 46 percent during those years.

"It is unclear the degree to which increases in those initiating marijuana first could be due to youth abstaining or delaying cigarettes," said Fairman.

Future Implications Of Teens Using Marijuana

The researchers suggest that there should be more public interventions and treatments available for users with cannabis-related problems. Part of the reason that young people are gravitating away from tobacco and toward marijuana is because of public perception. A public awareness campaign could be launched to educate teens about it.

"The finding might arise because in the past decade, there have been major public campaigns warning of the dangers of tobacco and alcohol whereas in contrast the media coverage of American states legalizing cannabis creates the public impression that cannabis has no risks or dangers," said Dr. Renee Johnson, a coauthor of the study.

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