An increasing number of young Americans are choosing cannabis over alcoholic drinks or cigarettes as their first drug of choice. A new research published in the Prevention Science journal reported the shift in the American youth’s preference.
275,000 young individuals all over the U.S. aged between 12 to 21 were examined and surveyed by the researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
The data was collected between 2004 and 2014 by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. It involved survey questions regarding the adolescent use of cannabis, cigarettes, alcohol, along with other restricted substances.
According to the researchers, eight percent of the respondents in 2014 said that cannabis was the first drug they ever tried. It almost doubled the numbers recorded in 2004 when it was only 4.8 percent.
Data analysts of the team correlated the rise in the numbers of first-time cannabis users to the declining rate of young smokers as well as to the significant drop in the number of young Americans who are using any form of addictive substances altogether.
The rate of young smokers dropped to 9 percent in 2014 from 21 percent in 2004 while the number of the youth who abstained from any form of drug use dropped from 36 to 46 percent in 2014.
These transitions were observed in particular ethnic groups. Researchers of the study found that young male people from Native American, black, Hispanic, or multiracial backgrounds use cannabis as their first drugs.
Brian Fairman said that their data concludes which youth sectors to target for public health prevention and intervention of cannabis use. He also added that young Americans who have started with marijuana before tobacco or alcoholic drinks were prone and more likely to eventually develop to become heavy drug users and might have cannabis-related complications in the future.
Fairman is a postdoctoral research doctor at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
“To the degree these trends continue, and greater numbers of youth start with marijuana as their first drug, there may be an increasing need for public interventions and treatment services for marijuana-related problems,” Fairman said.
One of the publications in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism talk about the risks associated with underage drinking. They said that every year, there is approximately 5,000 youth under the age of 21 dies because of underage drinking. Those deaths include roughly 1,900 motor vehicle deaths, about 1,600 drunken homicides, 300 suicides, and several hundred more from other situations like falling from tall structures, being burned alive, and drunk swimming which resulted in drowning.
On the other hand, smoking causes respiratory and non-respiratory health implications for those who started at a young age. Young individuals who smoke will also have higher chances of being addicted to nicotine and will have a higher probability of moving onto harder more dangerous drugs in the future.
Those who started to smoke in their adolescence will also most likely to continue it throughout their adult years.
According to the World Health Organization or WHO, teenagers who smoke suffer thrice as much shortness of breath and produce phlegm twice as much as teens who don’t. They are also more susceptible to emotional and mental issues as more teenage smokers consult health professionals and counselors for psychological consultation.
WHO also reported that teens who smoke are 3 times more likely to drink alcoholic drinks, 8 times more inclined to use cannabis and a whopping 22 times more likely to use cocaine.
But with the gradual rise in the popularity of cannabis, young people also tend to do away from other substances. It resonates with the report produced by Fairman and his team from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development regarding the drug use among this age group and how more youth choose cannabis over alcohol and cigarette as their first drug.
Another study even found out that the disorders from substance use of individuals between the age of 12 to 17 plunged to 49 percent in 2014 from 2003.