A recent alert from the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) presents an interesting juxtaposition of data from the Monitoring the Future study. It pits the rates of past-30-day marijuana smoking against the perception of harm with regular use in the US high-school senior population.
Adapted by CESAR from University of Michigan, "Teen Marijuana Use Tilts Up, While Some Drugs Decline in Use," Press Release, 12/14/09. Available online.
Since it has been a little while since I presented data such as these, I'll point to the obvious.
-The apparent co-registration of perception of harm with use rates. This does not, by any means, give us causality and one can (and I'm sure the comments will) argue it either way. Me, I find it hard to escape the logic that if you convince people a drug is risky (by whatever means) you are going to reduce use rates. The opposite argument, that familiarity breeds contempt (for the notion of risk) is less compelling to me.
-There was a long and sustained decrease in illicit drug use during the 80s. These data are reflective of trends for other drugs of abuse. My readers know that I tentatively assign this to the Just-Say-No, DARE, etc drumbeat of drugs-R-bad-m'kay. I just can't think of any other things that explain such broad, US-wide effects which persisted for a decade.
-I still do not understand what happened in the early 90s. These trends for marijuana and for this age group are echoed generally in the other age ranges and other drug categories. I jokingly blame dope-rap and think vaguely about cohorts who are the offspring of drug-lovin' Boomer parents but there is really nothing in firm focus here.