Cannabis use among US minors increased by 245% between 2000 and 2020

Cannabis use among American teens increased by 245% between 2000 and 2020 , with the edible herb gaining popularity at a faster rate than any other mode of use.

At the same time, alcohol use has plummeted, allowing cannabis to overtake alcohol as the most widely abused substance by young people in the United States .

The researchers analyzed the National Poison Data System (NPDS) to assess rates of intentional drug abuse among children ages six to 18 between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2020.

In doing so, they found that alcohol was the most widely used substance at the turn of the millennium , accounting for about 10 percent of all youth drug use in 2000, according to the study published in the journal Clinical Toxicology .

However, as the popularity of alcohol has declined over the past two decades, cannabis use has become increasingly widespread among adolescents .

“Since 2018, the most reported substance misuse/abuse involved marijuana exposure,” the researchers write.

Breaking down the numbers in a statement , study author Dr. Adrienne Hughes explained that “ethanol abuse cases exceeded the number of marijuana cases every year from 2000 to 2013.” However, “since 2014, marijuana exposure cases have surpassed ethanol cases every year, and by more each year than the previous year,” she said.

Overall, the researchers identified 338,727 cases of intentional drug abuse or misuse by children and adolescents during the 20-year study period. The figures fluctuated by year, with the highest number of incidents being recorded in 2011.

In 2000, a total of 1,318 cases of alcohol abuse were recorded, but it dropped to 916 in 2020. By contrast, marijuana-related incidents increased from 510 in 2000 to 1,761 in 2020.

“Edible marijuana preparations had the highest average monthly increase in call rates compared to all other forms of marijuana,” the study authors explain. Specifically, they state that “ there was an increase in edible marijuana exposures by 11.7 cases per month from 2000 to 2020.”

Other cannabis concentrates, such as vaping liquids, have also gained popularity, and there is evidence to suggest that young people may find the use of such products less conspicuous than smoking marijuana.

“These vaping and edible products are often marketed attractively to youth, and are seen as more discreet and convenient,” Hughes said.

However, he notes that edibles can often be stronger than inhaled cannabis , and that many young people inadvertently ingest very high doses of cannabinoids when they consume the drug through the intestine.

“Compared to smoking cannabis, which typically causes an immediate high, intoxication from edible forms of marijuana often takes several hours, which can lead some people to consume larger amounts and experience an unexpected and unpredictable high,” he said.

Overall, the most widely abused substance over the two decades was an over-the-counter cough medicine called dextromethorphan. However, the use of this drug has been in a steady decline since 2006, largely thanks to many states choosing to ban the sale of dextromethorphan to minors starting in 2012.

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