Study Finds Teens’ Likelihood of Trying Marijuana Peaks at Ages 16 and 18

The likelihood adolescents will try marijuana rises steadily from age 11 to age 16, then decreases before hitting another peak at age 18, according to a new University of Florida study.

The study findings, which appear in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, may help experts develop new marijuana prevention strategies, says lead author Xinguang (Jim) Chen, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the department of epidemiology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the UF College of Medicine.

“Many existing marijuana intervention programs target students age 15 and older,” Chen said. “Our findings demonstrate the need to start drug education much earlier, in the fourth or fifth grade. This gives us an opportunity to make a preemptive strike before they actually start using marijuana.”

As medical marijuana laws are passed in more states, there is concern among some experts that teens may view marijuana as a substance that can be used safely by anyone, regardless of whether it is part of a treatment plan under a physician’s supervision.

The UF study was designed to learn when adolescents are most at risk for starting marijuana use. It is one of the first studies to examine the likelihood of marijuana initiation as a function of age and it used a study method called survival analysis that is more sensitive to fluctuations across age groups, Chen said in a news release.

The team analyzed data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationwide cross-sectional survey including approximately 27,000 respondents ages 12 to 21, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
 

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