From Medical News Daily
Adolescents are at risk of trying marijuana from the age of 11, new research finds.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), last year, around 6.5 percent of eighth-grade students, 14.8 percent of 10th-graders, and 21.3 percent of 12th-graders reported current marijuana use. Among 12th-graders, 6 percent reported using the drug daily.
Marijuana use can pose a number of risks to physical and mental health, including mood changes, altered senses, impaired movement and breathing problems.
Additionally, use of the drug in adolescence may raise the risk of long-term problems, such as poor cognitive functioning; studies have shown that teenagers who use marijuana have a lower IQ and poorer academic outcomes.
Previous research has also indicated that teenagers who use marijuana are more likely to engage in the use of other illicit drugs.
However, NIDA report that adolescent awareness of these risks is gradually decreasing, likely due to increased legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational use across the U.S.
For this latest study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, researchers from the University of Florida (UF) set out to determine the ages at which adolescents are most likely to try marijuana - information that they say could help guide drug prevention programs.
'Drug education needs to start earlier'
Lead author Dr. Xinguang Chen, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at UF, and colleagues analyzed data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which included 26,659 participants aged 12-21 years.
The researchers used the data to estimate the risk of marijuana use initiation among the participants from birth.
Overall, the team found that 54 percent of adolescents had started using marijuana by the age of 21.
They found that adolescents are at risk of trying marijuana from the age of 11. This risk steadily increases until the age of 16, at which point it hits a peak, the researchers report.
The authors note that current marijuana intervention programs focus on adolescents aged 15 and older. Based on their results, the authors suggest such programs should be initiated earlier.