The following is excerpted from an online article posted by HealthDay.
American kids are drinking to excess less and abusing marijuana more, a new study finds.
Marijuana abuse among 6- to 18-year-olds has increased 245% since 2000, while child alcohol abuse has steadily declined over those years, say researchers who analyzed poisonings over two decades.
“This dramatic increase does coincide with this huge wave of decriminalization in the U.S.,” said lead researcher Dr. Adrienne Hughes, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.
And the use of cannabis has evolved over the years, too.
“We’re seeing that adolescents are moving away from smoking weed, and they’re moving on to alternative modes of consumption,” like edibles, Hughes said. “A lot of times they’re marketed in ways that are attractive to young people and are considered kind of more discreet, more convenient and not obvious.”
This study adds to the growing base of research showing the harms of marijuana to youth, especially in the form of edibles, said Linda Richter, vice president for prevention research and analysis at the Partnership to End Addiction in New York City.
“These products resemble candy and come in enticing flavors and have high concentrations of THC [the compound that creates the ‘high’],” said Richter, who was not part of the study. “The proliferation of these products, especially in states where nonmedical use of marijuana has been legalized, normalizes the use of the drug and reduces perceptions of risk or harm among young people.”
For the study, Hughes and her colleagues used the National Poison Data System to look at nearly 339,000 cases of intentional misuse and abuse of substances among children and teens.
Most cases (58%) occurred in boys, and more than 80% were among teens ages 13 to 18. The researchers noted that about one-third of cases resulted in serious medical problems.
The report points to changing patterns of substance abuse over time. Over-the-counter cough medicines containing dextromethorphan, a stimulant, caused most overdoses, Hughes said. However, since its peak in 2006, its abuse had been on the decline, she said.
In 2000, most cases of substance abuse involved alcohol. Abusive drinking exceeded marijuana abuse from 2000 until 2013, when it began to decline, Hughes said.
Cannabis use remained stable from 2000 to 2009, then rose from 2011, with an even more dramatic increase from 2017 to 2020, she said. Since 2014, marijuana use has exceeded alcohol use every year, and by a greater amount each year, Hughes said.