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, which are both part of UF Health.
“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 adolescents 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. Using marijuana at a young age could put adolescents at risk for cognitive problems, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Teens who use marijuana may have impaired brain development and lower IQ. They may receive lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school.