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U.S. Youth Ditch Alcohol for Cannabis in Record Numbers, Study Says

American youth are smoking pot more than ever before, but according to the same data, they are dropping booze habits at the same time—begging the question if society is better off as a whole.

These findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Monday Clinical ToxicologyThe study identified precisely 338.727 cases of abuse and misuse in American children between the ages 6 and 18. Americans performed well in keeping children under 18 from drug abuse. However, most cases of accidental misuse or abuse of drugs involved small children aged 6-12. These were often over-the counter items like vitamins and hormones.

American youth have seen a 245% increase in cannabis usage since 2000. However, alcohol abuse is on the decline. “Young people are ditching alcohol for marijuana,” Neuroscience News reports.

“Ethanol abuse cases exceeded the number of marijuana cases every year from 2000 until 2013,” stated Dr Adrienne Hughes, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, one of the authors of the study. “Since 2014, marijuana exposure cases have exceeded ethanol cases every year, and by a greater amount each year than the prior.” 

“These edible and vaping products are often marketed in ways that are attractive to young people, and they are considered more discrete and convenient,” says Hughes.

Researchers discovered what many of us know already: cannabis edibles take hours for to become high.

“Compared to smoking cannabis, which typically results in an immediate high, intoxication from edible forms of marijuana usually takes several hours, which may lead some individuals to consume greater amounts and experience unexpected and unpredictable highs,” says Hughes.

Researchers found that children between 6 and 12 years old were involved in 57 488 instances. These cases included vitamins, herbs, hand sanitizers, and other common household items.

At 58.3%, the males ingestion rate was slightly higher than that of females. Furthermore, more than 80 percent of cases of marijuana exposure were reported to have occurred in teenagers aged 13-18.

It shows how drugs can change their popularity over time. Dextromethorphan—the most reported substance over the study period—peaked in 2006, but has fallen out of favor among American youth.

The peak in youth alcohol abuse was 20 years ago, back when the most abuse cases were involving ethanol exposure. The rate of child alcohol abuse has been steadily declining over the years.

The cannabis cases, however, have remained fairly stable between 2000 and 2009 with an increase in cases starting in 2011 and a sharper rise in cases by 2017 through 2020.

Similar trends can also be observed in America’s youth, who are less likely to drink alcohol. It is evident that there have been significant changes in how cannabis products are consumed. However, the researchers are concerned by the rising number of unpleasant edible experiences.

“Our study describes an upward trend in marijuana abuse exposures among youth, especially those involving edible products,” says Hughes.

“These findings highlight an ongoing concern about the impact of rapidly evolving cannabis legalization on this vulnerable population.”

These findings don’t prove conclusive. Previous federally-funded data has dismissed the idea that legalization could be linked to increased cannabis use by teens.

The journal published a study in November. American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that cannabis legalization “was not significantly related” to “the probability or frequency of self-reported past-year cannabis use” by teens. It also found that “youth who spent more of their adolescence under legalization were no more or less likely to have used cannabis at age 15 years than adolescents who spent little or no time under legalization.”

  • Benjamin M. Adams

    Benjamin M. Adams works as a Staff Writer for Chronic News. His writings have appeared in Vice, Forbes and HuffPost. Southern New Hampshire University awarded him a Bachelor in Communication.

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