Pubdate: Mon, 03 Nov 2014
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2014 The Arizona Republic


Alcohol, Tobacco Use Falls, but Teens See Marijuana As Gaining Social 

First, the good news. Drug and alcohol use among Arizona teens 
continues to drop, according to a biennial survey. Those teens are 
also smoking less - tobacco, anyway. The more than 48,000 eighth-, 
10th- and 12thgraders who took the survey reported they're more 
likely to use marijuana than to smoke a cigarette.

To explain, let's look at the numbers in the survey conducted by the 
Arizona Criminal Justice Commission. (Find the full survey at

Alcohol remains the most popular mood-altering substance among teens, 
but the survey reflects a downward trend. Four years ago, nearly 22 
percent of eighth-graders reported having had a drink in the past 
month; this year, it was 13.4 percent.

The percentages are dropping even among high-school seniors, to 40.6 
percent this year from 45 percent four years ago.

Messages about how alcohol affects young brains appear to be making headway.

So are anti-smoking messages. The downward trend is steeper - a drop 
of about one-third in four years for every age group.

Now, the bad news: Marijuana is resisting the downward trend.

Its use dropped slightly among eighth-graders, remained flat among 
high-school sophomores and rose for seniors. (Nearly one in four 
seniors reported using pot within the past month, and almost half 
have tried it at least once.)

This is significant as advocates gear up to put legalization of 
marijuana for recreational purposes on the 2016 ballot. If teens 
continue to use pot when it's legal.

Alcohol remains the most popular drug among teens, but its use is 
dropping. The same can't be said for marijuana, which is boosted by 
misguided campaigns to legalize it. gal in Arizona only for medical 
purposes, what will happen if it becomes fully legal?

Set aside for now the argument as to whether marijuana is dangerous 
or a gateway to harder drugs. There is no question pot, like alcohol, 
damages a developing brain. Both stand in the way of youthful 
potential. In extreme cases, they derail a life before it really begins.

Messages warning teens off of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs are 
everywhere. This survey indicates they're having an effect. In 
addition to alcohol and tobacco, the abuse of prescription drugs and 
bath salts fell significantly over four years. They're just not cool anymore.

But the messaging around marijuana is different. It's now a healer, 
treating symptoms real and created. While three in four teens who use 
pot get it from a friend, a rising percentage get it from someone 
with a medical-marijuana card.

In Colorado and Washington, marijuana has moved into the mainstream, 
just as legal as a bottle of Cabernet. Why would kids turn away from 
something gaining such public acceptance?

We could launch another public-interest campaign aimed at getting 
teens to abstain from pot. But it makes more sense to just turn away 
from this misguided campaign to give respectability to a drug banned 
for good reason to begin with.

This year, we can celebrate the good news that fewer high-schoolers 
are drinking. But that's against a bigger context in which two-thirds 
of seniors have had a drink at some point. That's a big number. 
Expect the same if recreational marijuana becomes legal.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom