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Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know

A Letter to Parents

Since 1975 the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide. Drug use is measured across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month; for some drugs, daily use is also reported. Initially, the survey included 12th-graders only, but in 1991 it was expanded to include 8th- and 10th-graders.

We at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) are pleased to offer these two short booklets for parents and children to review the scientific facts about marijuana: (1) Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know and (2) Marijuana: Facts for Teens. Although it is best to talk about drugs when children are young—since that is when drug use often begins—it is never too late to start.

Marijuana remains the most abused illicit substance among youth. By the time they graduate high school, about 44 percent of U.S. teens will have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime. Although use among teens has dropped dramatically in the past decade (to a prevalence of about 15 percent for past-month use in 2010), this decline has stalled and, in fact, may now be on the upswing. Recent survey data show that daily marijuana use is up among students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades, compared to the year prior. A principal reason is that today's teens have come to view marijuana as less dangerous than before—even among 8th-graders, whose marijuana use increased across past-year, past-month, and daily measures. These statistics were taken from the 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey, which has been tracking teen attitudes and drug use since 1975.

Survey results show that we still have a long way to go in our efforts to prevent marijuana use and avoid the toll it can take on a young person's life. NIDA recognizes that parents have an important role in this effort and can strongly influence their children's attitudes and behaviors. However, the subject of marijuana use has become increasingly difficult to talk about—in part, because of the mixed messages being conveyed by the passage of medical marijuana laws and calls for marijuana legalization in certain States. In addition, many parents of today's teens may have used marijuana when they were younger, which could make talking openly and setting definitive rules about its use more difficult.

Talking to our children about drug abuse is not always easy, but it is crucial. You can also get involved in your community and seek out drug abuse prevention programs that you and your child can participate in together. Sometimes, just beginning the conversation is the hardest part. I hope these booklets can help.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse

This page was last updated March 2011.

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