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Pot use rising faster than tobacco
Studies show use of marijuana spiked in 2010
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The National Institutes of Health’s annual Monitoring the Future Survey is available at The MTF is one of three major surveys sponsored by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services that provide data on substance use among youth. The others are the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Additional information on MTF can be found at; or

The Kansas Communities that Care survey can be seen at

A federal study released this week indicates more high school seniors nationwide have used marijuana in the past month than have smoked a cigarette, as pot use slid up slightly as tobacco use stagnated. In addition, it showed daily marijuana use up in all grades surveyed.

Closer to home, similar results were found in a study conducted by Kansas Communities that Care, an offshoot of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

According to the National Institutes of Health’s annual Monitoring the Future Survey, for the first time in decades, marijuana was more popular than cigarettes among teens. In this year’s survey, 21.4 percent of 12th graders used marijuana in the past 30 days, while only 19.2 percent smoked cigarettes. Also, the rate of eighth-graders saying they have used an illicit drug in the past year jumped to 16 percent, up from last year’s 14.5 percent.

Although pot has not surpassed tobacco locally, the numbers are increasing. In KCTC’s 2009 Barton County survey, the percentage of young people who said they smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days was 7.1 percent while those using marijuana was 4.7. The 2010 report numbers are 12.1 and 7.1 percent.

By comparison, Barton County students who drank alcohol in the past 30 days was 31.1 percent in 2001 and 32.7 percent in 2010. Those who admitted to using smokeless tobacco at least once climbed from 8.6 percent to 15.1 percent (it was 11.4 in 2008).

"The increases in youth drug use reflected in the Monitoring the Future Study are disappointing," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don’t help parents who are trying to prevent kids from using drugs."

"Overall, marijuana use is up," said Christina Hayes, Great Bend-based prevention consultant with the Regional Prevention Center of Northwest Kansas. With statewide efforts focusing on underage drinking and school districts facing budget cuts, it’s not unexpected to see the use of one drug rise.

In Great Bend’s Unified School District 428, the KCTC results indicate 22.04 percent of the students smoked a cigarette in the past month while 16.93 admitted to using marijuana, said Superintendent Tom Vernon. Both of these are above the 12-year averages of 16 and 12 percent respectively.

Outside of this year’s spikes, Vernon said the numbers have remains pretty constant, so he is hesitant to read to much into them. "One year is not a trend."

Even so, "we continue to preach and to teach the bad effects of drugs as well as alcohol," he said. It’s impossible to discern what caused the increase by looking at the CTC study. "We are going to continue to do what we’ve done in the past" unless the numbers continue to rise.

Hayes said the CTC survey is a valid study, given to students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades. "It gives us a good idea what youth are doing."

The survey is available for free to all school districts and schools are encouraged to utilize it. However, even if it is administered, participation by students is voluntary.

In Great Bend, 100 students answered the cigarette question and 77 answered the marijuana question. The 2010 results were based on the survey taken in December 2009.

The NIH survey, released Tuesday during a Washington, D.C., news conference at the National Press Club, also shows significant jumps in use of Ecstasy. In addition, nonmedical use of prescription drugs remains high. Done since 1975, MTF is an annual series of classroom surveys of eighth, 10th, and 12th-graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH researchers surveyed more than 46,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12.

The MTF survey showed a significant increase in the reported use of MDMA, or Ecstasy, with 2.4 percent of eighth-graders citing past-year use, compared to 1.3 percent in 2009. Similarly, past-year MDMA use among 10th-graders increased from 3.7 percent to 4.7 percent in 2010.

Also of concern is that the downward trend in cigarette smoking has stalled in all three grades after several years of marked improvement on most measures. Greater marketing of other forms of tobacco prompted the 2010 survey to add measures for 12th-graders’ use of small cigars (23.1 percent) and of tobacco with a smoking pipe known as a hookah (17.1 percent).

Prescription drug abuse remains a major problem. Although Vicodin abuse decreased in 12th graders this year to 8 percent, down from around 9.7 percent the past four years, other indicators confirm that nonmedical use of prescription drugs remains high. For example, the use of OxyContin, another prescription opiate, stayed about the same for 12th-graders at 5.1 percent in 2010. And six of the top 10 illicit drugs abused by 12th-graders in the year prior to the survey were prescribed or purchased over the counter. The survey again found that teens generally get these prescription drugs from friends and family, whether given, bought, or stolen.