New findings show that marijuana use disorders are on the decline among U.S. adolescents, according to Richard A. Grucza, Ph.D., and his associates.

They examined National Survey on Drug Use and Health data for 2002-2013 from 216,852 adolescents aged 12-17 years. They divided the data into two age groups: 12-14 and 15-17.

The prevalence of past-year marijuana use of the adolescents declined steadily from 15.8% in 2002 to 12.5% in 2007. After that it began to climb, peaking at 14.2% to 14.3% in 2010 and 2011. Then it dropped back to 13.2% in 2013. The decline was significant for both age groups, with no significant difference in trends between the groups (ages 12-14 years, odds ratio, 0.978 per year; ages 15-17 years, OR, 0.987).

In examining risk factors and protective factors, the researchers observed significant negative trends for the three risk factors and significant positive trends for four of the six protective factors. The two protective factors that decreased over time were drug education and religious commitment. “Thus, seven of the nine risk/protective factors changed over time in a manner that might partially explain the downward trend in the prevalence of marijuana use disorders,” they noted.

“Our findings underscore the importance of adolescent mental health in conferring resilience to risk for substance use disorders,” the researchers concluded. “There are one or more environmental factors – yet to be identified – that may be changing over time in a manner that leads to both lower risk for marijuana use disorders and for other behavioral problems.”

Read the study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2016.04.002 ).


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