A national drug survey released this week has found that teenagers are using marijuana at record levels, with one in 15 high school seniors reporting smoking pot daily or almost daily. The study found that alcohol use among teens, by contrast, is at an all-time low, with 40 percent of high school seniors admitting to drinking alcohol during the past 30 days (54 percent said the same in 1991).
The percentage of teens saying they see "great risk" in using marijuana generally has dropped in recent years.
"One thing we've learned over the years is that when young people come to see a drug as dangerous, they're less likely to use it," Lloyd Johnston, the study's principal investigator, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "That helps to explain why marijuana right now is rising, because the proportion of kids who see it as dangerous has been declining."
The study said marijuana use among teens rose in 2011 for the fourth straight year after considerable decline in the preceding decade.
The survey found 36.4 percent of 12th-graders reported using marijuana in the past year, compared to 31.7 percent in the 2007 survey. Usage was at 28.8 percent for 10th-graders and 12.5 percent for eighth-graders within the previous 12 months, according to the 2011 survey.
The synthetic drug survey question was asked for the first time this year. Fake marijuana, sometimes sold in drug paraphernalia shops and on the Internet as incense, contains organic leaves coated with chemicals that provide a marijuana-like high when smoked.
A Drug Enforcement Administration emergency order banning the sale of five chemicals used in herbal blends to make synthetic marijuana took effect March 1. The synthetics are among the many that would be banned under a bill passed in the U.S. House earlier this month. Many states also have their own laws banning the sale of synthetic marijuana.
Image: Cigarette smoke, via Shutterstock.