A government survey released this week offered one of the first sweeping looks at marijuana use among various age groups on the heels of several states’ legalization of recreational pot, finding 14-year highs in consumption by adults and a 14-year low in use by children ages 12-17.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s survey of the nation’s substance abuse and mental health problems found that marijuana use among children 12-17 decreased to 6.5 percent – the lowest since at least 2002, when more than 8 percent of teens confessed to using it in the past month. The administration prepares this report annually through a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The survey does not include anyone under 12, so it’s unclear if use among young children has changed. People without a fixed address, who are serving on active military duty and who are incarcerated were also not counted.
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The survey notes nearly 21 percent of adults between ages 18-25 had used marijuana in the past month – an increase of a full percentage point over the 2015 rate. Just over 7 percent of adults age 26 or older admitted to using pot. Both figures are the highest they’ve been since at least 2002.
In all, about 24 million Americans – or about 9 percent of the population surveyed – over the age of 12 admitted to using marijuana in the past month.
These numbers are sure to be used as ammunition in the ongoing marijuana debate. Opponents of recreational pot – in Fresno, throughout California and beyond – often point to the risk of childhood use as a reason to reject commercialization, while cannabis advocates and businesses seek to disprove that rationale.
1.6 millionThe estimated number of American adolescents who admitted to using marijuana in 2016.
Some other interesting notes from the survey:
▪ Nearly one in 10 Americans admitted to using illicit drugs – marijuana, cocaine, heroin, misused prescription medication and so on – in 2016. About one in four adults ages 18-25 admitted the same.
▪ About 6.2 million Americans over 12, or 2.3 percent, admitted to misusing prescription medication in 2016.
▪ Alcohol consumption among 12- to 20-year-olds also reached a 14-year low of 19.3 percent. This is the first time this rate has dipped below 20 percent since at least 2002, when nearly 29 percent of underage Americans admitted to drinking in the past month.
▪ About 57 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds admitted to drinking in the past month, which is also a 14-year low. The rate for adults over 26 was about 55 percent, which is consistent with last decade or so.
▪ Cigarette use dropped among teens and young adults, but increased slightly in adults over 26. Overall, use by Americans over 12 was about 19 percent – another 14-year low.
▪ The number of people who admitted to marijuana use disorder – which the survey defines as using at least six times in the last 12 months and other criteria such as losing your job, increased dependence and so on – remained steady at about 4 million people over the age of 12. This is about 1.5 percent of the population – tying a 14-year low. The high was about 1.9 percent in 2004.
▪ About 11.8 million people abused opioids in 2016. About 948,000 people over 12 were estimated to have used heroin – a 14-year high.