Marijuana is legal in some form in almost half of the United States, and many Americans expected adolescent marijuana use to vastly increase due to medical and recreational legalization throughout varying states, but a new study reveals the exact opposite is occurring.
Data from 216,000 teens from every state was examined by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. Those studied, as reported by Eureka Alert, were between the ages of 12 and 17, over a period of 12 years. From the years 2002 through 2013, adolescent marijuana use decreased by 24 percent.
Researchers believe that a reduction in personal behavior problems aided the decline in adolescent marijuana usage.
First author in the study, Richard A. Grucza, PhD said, “We were surprised to see substantial declines in marijuana use and abuse. We don’t know how legalization is affecting young marijuana users, but it could be that many kids with behavioral problems are more likely to get treatment earlier in childhood, making them less likely to turn to pot during adolescence. But whatever is happening with these behavioral issues, it seems to be outweighing any effects of marijuana decriminalization.”
Dr. Grucza also noted, “Other research shows that psychiatric disorders earlier in childhood are strong predictors of marijuana use later on. So, it’s likely that if these disruptive behaviors are recognized earlier in life, we may be able to deliver therapies that will help prevent marijuana problems – and possibly problems with alcohol and other drugs, too.”
Adolescent study participants also reported a decline in fighting, illegal drug sales and carrying concealed weapons.