Marijuana and Prescription Drug Use Among Twelfth Graders

Marijuana and Prescription Drug Use Among Twelfth Graders

Various types of drugs are used among our youth but some are more commonly abused than others. Every year a Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey is done among almost fifty thousand students in the eighth, ninth and twelfth grades. Results from the 2012 survey among high school students in the 12th grade show prescription medications and marijuana to be the most prevalently used.

Results below are of "past-year" commonly used drugs among twelfth graders from the 2012 MTF study.

Marijuana was the most abused drug according to results with 36.4 percent of the 12th grade students reporting use of the drug within the past year. Many young people as well as adults don't feel marijuana is addictive but it is and the younger a person starts using the drug the greater their risk of addiction will be. Chronic use of marijuana can affect a person's memory and ability to learn, these problems can continue for years among young people if they start using the drug during adolescence.

Hashish: a much more concentrated form of marijuana, less commonly used and addictive. The short term effects are the same for hashish and marijuana and can include learning and memory problems, anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks. Marijuana and hashish are both classified as Schedule I drugs.

Spice: Results show 11.3 percent of students reported past year use of spice/K2. Spice is a synthetic form of marijuana that's marketed and sold under a variety of names and K2 is one of them. Spice is also classified as a Schedule I controlled substance that's used more among males in the 12th grade compared to females. Synthetic marijuana known as spice is a common drug used among young people due to its mind altering effects.

Spice mixtures haven't been around long enough to know what the long term health effects are yet. We do know the short term effects can be serious though. Due to symptoms of "rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations", abusers of spice have had to be "taken to Poison Control Centers" according to NIH.

Prescription drugs and medications that can be purchased over the counter are also a popular drug of abuse among our youth. Adderall and Vicodin were the most commonly used for non-medical reasons among 12th graders according to results of the 2012 survey.

Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that are abused by people in all groups. Various drugs fall into this category including methamphetamine. Results of the 2012 MTF survey show 7.9 percent of twelfth grade students used amphetamines.

Adderall is a stimulant drug that falls into the category of amphetamines and is one of the drugs students in the 12th grade reported using for non-medical reasons. Results of the 2012 study show 7.6 percent of 12 graders reported past year use. Adderall is a widely abused drug among college students and other young adults for recreational purposes or as a study aid. Adderall is a prescription medication that's used in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy but due to the stimulant effects, is also abused for non-medical reasons.

Vicodin is a narcotic painkiller that's used for the relief of moderate to severe pain but it's also a prescription drug that's highly addictive and abused. Vicodin is one of the most common narcotic pain medications abused and has been for quite some time. Opioid pain relievers are widely used anymore for nonmedical reasons by many teens and young adults. Results from the 2012 MTF survey indicate 7.5 percent of 12th graders reported past year use.

Not only is Vicodin a powerful pain reliever, the narcotic painkiller contains acetaminophen and hydrocodone and should never be misused, combined with alcohol or taken in high doses. When a person takes Vicodin for nonmedical reasons, larger doses are usually taken. Most people don't realize that taking high doses of acetaminophen can cause liver damage and even death.

It's dangerous to ingest large doses of cough medications that contain the ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM) but many teens do for the purpose of getting high. Cough syrups are legal and because they can be purchased so easily over the counter, it's a relatively cheap way for adolescents to obtain a buzz.

Ingesting large amounts of dextromethorphan is very dangerous and depending on the amount used can affect a person's vision, coordination and speech, cause dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, a rapid heartbeat, and even hallucinations. Results of the 2012 MTF survey among 12th graders show 5.6 percent misused cough medications during the prior year.

Fortunately there was also a decrease in some drug use compared to past study results among twelfth graders. Monitoring the Future's 2012 survey results among 12th graders shows there was a decrease in the use of cocaine, ecstasy, and alcohol.

The misuse of prescription drugs and over the counter medications is just as dangerous as the abuse of illegal street drugs but because they're legal, young people believe them to be a safer way to get high. The use of marijuana and abuse of pharmaceutical drugs among teens not only can lead to addiction, serious mental and physical health complications but also often leads to the abuse of other dangerous drugs in their future.

Monitoring the Future
National Institute on Drug Abuse

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