Teenage Attitudes Towards Marijuana and Other Illicit Drugs
High school seniors who frown upon the use of drugs are most likely to be female, non-smokers, or have a strong religious or spiritual foundation. These outcomes were a result of a study done by Joseph Palamar of New York University in regards toyoung people’s attitudes towards the use of marijuana and its’ influence on their thoughts regarding other illicit drugs. The study appears online in the journal Prevention Science.
This study was conducted as public perception towards marijuana use has become more tolerant and legislation has become more lenient. The use of marijuana, especially among young people, has been steadily on the increase. Previous research had indicated that people who disapprove of a certain drug tend to not use that drug. However, little had been known regarding attitudes concerning drug use and how it affects people’s perceptions of using other drugs.
Palamar, who is an assistant professor in the departments of child and adolescent psychiatry at New York University, examined how demographics and lifetime use of drugs (especially marijuana) can be a predictor of young people using harder drugs. Data for this study was obtained from a survey that was part of a program called Monitoring the Future. This annual cross-sectional survey included 29,054 high school seniors from approximately 130 public and private schools in 48 states between 2007 and 2011.
From the data, Palamar discovered that young people who smoked cigarettes or used more than one “hard” drug (e.g. crack, LSD, powder cocaine) were consistently less critical of other drug use. Lifetime alcohol use among young people had no noticeable impact on attitudes. Those young people who used marijuana exclusively had a tendency to be less judgmental towards the use of drugs such as LSD, methamphetamine and ecstasy. However, those young people who used marijuana exclusively had less desirable attitudes towards drugs like cocaine, crack or heroin.
Female high school students were consistently disapproving of the use of cocaine, crack or LSD across the board, which was expected since females are less likely to use most drugs in comparison to males. The added dimension of the strength of religious and spiritual background increased attitudes against drug use. In regards to a young person’s socioeconomic status, those young people from more privileged backgrounds with highly educated parents as well as those living in urban areas were more tolerant of drug use.
A finding that Palamar found interested was that Black students were less disapproving of powder cocaine, crack and ecstasy because this group generally uses these drugs less than White students. Reasons that were cited for that shift were strong religious beliefs and the higher rate of arrest and incarceration among Blacks. Also, the prevalence of ecstasy in both rap and hip-hop music may explain that more tolerant attitude.
While it may be difficult to prevent use of substances like alcohol or marijuana among young people, Palamar stated that prevention efforts should be directed towards young people being users of multiple drugs. This can be accomplished through changes in public health spheres and well as policy.