Every year the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) surveys 8th, 10th, and 12th graders across the country about their substance use

The most recent results from 2017 show some interesting changes in the popularity and perceived risk of cigarettes, “vaping,” and marijuana.

While cigarette use has shown a steady decline since the survey began in 1991, vaping is becoming more and more popular. In 2017, 27% of 12 graders said they had ever smoked a cigarette, while 36% said that had vaped. But these students aren’t just vaping nicotine. About 12% of 12th graders and 10% of 10th graders said that they had tried vaping marijuana. That’s close to 1 out of every 10 students. The number of students smoking marijuana also continues to increase, with 23% (or almost 1 in 4) 12 graders reporting that they smoked marijuana in the last month, compared to only 14% in 1991.

What could be contributing to this change? It seems that these trends are largely influenced by teens beliefs about the harmfulness of different drugs. The graph below illustrates this point very clearly for changes in marijuana use between 1975 and 2013, as the trends are almost perfect mirror images of each other.

Graph of percentage of US 12 grade students reporting daily marijuana use vs. perceived risk of regular marijuana use

Although the NIDA survey shows that more teens believe regular marijuana use is safe, teens brains are at particular risk if they use marijuana regularly. Research shows that regular marijuana use beginning in the teen years can lead to increased problems with learning and increased risk for substance use and mental health disorders.

Not every teen who uses marijuana will become addicted or develop other mental health problems, but it is important to be aware of the risks and warning signs. Watch for changes in friend groups, hobbies, sleep or eating habits, and major mood changes.

For more information about trends in teen substance use:


For more information about the risks associated with teen marijuana use and how parents can help:

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