Drug Education Must Start Early

Drug Education Must Start Early Drug Education Must Start Early

Marijuana remains the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, and its use is particularly widespread among adolescents. Now, a new study has identified the ages at which adolescents are most likely to try the drug, which may have implications for current marijuana intervention programs.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), last year, around 6.5% of eighth-grade students, 14.8% of 10th-graders, and 21.3% of 12th-graders reported current marijuana use. Among 12th-graders, 6% reported using the drug daily.

Marijuana use can pose a number of risks to physical and mental health, including mood changes, altered senses, impaired movement and breathing problems.

Additionally, use of the drug in adolescence may raise the risk of long-term problems, such as poor cognitive functioning; studies have shown that teenagers who use marijuana have a lower IQ and poorer academic outcomes, reported.

For this latest study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, researchers from the University of Florida (UF) set out to determine the ages at which adolescents are most likely to try marijuana - information that they say could help guide drug prevention programs.

Lead author Dr. Xinguang Chen, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at UF, and colleagues analyzed data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which included 26,659 participants aged 12-21 years.

Overall, the team found that 54% of adolescents had started using marijuana by the age of 21. They found that adolescents are at risk of trying marijuana from the age of 11. This risk steadily increases until the age of 16, at which point it hits a peak, they said.

The authors note that current marijuana intervention programs focus on adolescents aged 15 and older.

“Our findings demonstrate the need to start drug education much earlier, in the fourth or fifth grade, to make a preemptive strike before they actually start using marijuana.”

“Intervention programs should be developed for both parents and adolescents, and delivered to the right target population at the right time for the best prevention effect,” researchers said.