Marijuana Abuse Increased Among Teens in 2014

Teens are smoking marijuana at the highest rate since 2011, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2015 national behavioral health barometer.

The number of teens who perceive no great risk from smoking marijuana is at its highest since 2010 and so is the number of teens who perceive no great risk from drinking four or five alcoholic beverages every day, according to the report.

The report used data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior surveys and SAMHSA’s national surveys on drug use and health.

In 2014, nearly one-third of teens ages 12 – 17 thought there was no great risk from smoking one pack of cigarettes daily or consuming four to five alcoholic drinks daily. The percentages of adolescents who think there is no great risk from smoking weed or drinking alcohol have been increasing for the past five years.

“As more states go toward having medical marijuana and having legalized marijuana, that creates a public perception — including among our impressionable youth — that it’s safe,” Dr. Richard Rosenthal told MedPage Today.

The percentages of teens ages 12 – 17 who consumed marijuana one month before the survey fluctuated between 6.7 and 7.9 percent during the past seven years:

  • 2008 – 6.7%
  • 2009 – 7.4%
  • 2010 – 7.4%
  • 2011 – 7.9%
  • 2012 – 7.2%
  • 2013 – 7.1%
  • 2014 – 7.4%

Marijuana and prescription drugs ranked among the most-abused illicit drugs, not including alcohol, by teens.

Overall, the percentage of teens ages 12 – 17 who abused illicit drugs during the month before the survey was:

Nonmedical use of prescription drugs

“It’s actually probably not that dangerous if you think about it pharmacologically in folks that are adults over 25, but among youth, it actually is hazardous,” Rosenthal added. “They don’t know that it can affect brain development.”

The survey carried some good news though. Fewer teens tried alcohol, cigarettes, illegal prescriptions and marijuana for the first time in 2014 than in the year before. The rate of first use for alcohol, cigarettes and illegal prescriptions has been on the decline since 2010, and the rate of first use for marijuana has been declining since 2011, according to the report.

Other Trends in Teen Drug Abuse

The SAMHSA report detailed the percentage of teens who abused drugs like marijuana, prescription medications, cigarettes and alcohol in 2014. Rates of abuse for other drugs like inhalants, hallucinogens and cocaine were less than one percent among teens nationally.


The difference in rates of abuse among genders was the biggest for prescription pain relievers. The data continue to indicate female teenagers are more likely to abuse prescription pain relievers than male teenagers.

The past year nonmedical use of pain relievers by males ages 12 – 17 was:

  • 2008 — 5.7%
  • 2009 — 6.0%
  • 2010 — 5.5%
  • 2011 — 5.4%
  • 2012 — 5.1%
  • 2013 — 4.5%
  • 2014 — 4.0%

The past year nonmedical use of pain relievers by females ages 12 – 17 was:

  • 2008 — 7.2%
  • 2009 — 7.2%
  • 2010 — 7.0%
  • 2011 — 6.5%
  • 2012 — 5.6%
  • 2013 — 4.8%
  • 2014 — 5.4%


About 1.2 million teens, 4.9% of Americans ages 12 – 17, reported smoking cigarettes during the month prior to the survey.

Significant differences were seen between teens in rural and metropolitan areas. About 7.9 percent of teens living in rural areas smoked cigarettes, while only 4.3 percent of teens in metropolitan areas smoked.

Teens living in poverty were also more likely to smoke cigarettes than teens whose household income was above the federal poverty line.

The past month cigarette use among teens ages 12 – 17 has been on the decline for the past five years:

  • 2010 — 8.4%
  • 2011 — 7.8%
  • 2012 — 6.6%
  • 2013 — 5.6%
  • 2014 — 4.9%


Almost 10 percent of teens tried alcohol for the first time in 2014. An estimated 1.5 million teens, about 6.1 percent of teens ages 12 – 17 in the U.S., admitted to binge drinking in the month before the survey.

The rate of binge drinking has steadily declined among teens during the past seven years:

  • 2008 — 8.9%
  • 2009 — 8.9%
  • 2010 — 7.9%
  • 2011 — 7.4%
  • 2012 — 7.2%
  • 2013 — 6.2%
  • 2014 — 6.1%

Treating Teens for Addiction

Drugs have a stronger effect on teens than they do on adults because their bodies are still growing and developing. A teenage brain is more susceptible to addiction, so it’s even more imperative that teens seek treatment to recover from addiction.

About 2.7 percent of American teenagers suffered from alcohol dependence or abuse in 2014, and 3.5 percent suffered from drug dependence or abuse, according to the report.

However, the 12 – 17 age group was the least likely to seek treatment for drug addiction in 2012, with only 10 percent of teens suffering from addiction seeking treatment. Adults ages 18 – 25 were the second-least likely age group to seek treatment, with 11 percent of addicts seeking treatment.

Comparatively, 18.1 percent of addicts age 26 – 44 sought treatment for addiction, and 19.1 percent of people ages 45 – 64 sought treatment for addiction in 2014.

Facilities that specialize in treating teens suffering from drug and alcohol addiction can help teens recover. Treatment plans are tailored to youth, and specific therapeutic and counseling techniques can help increase a teenager’s chances of recovering from addiction.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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