Youth marijuana abuse went up by 245% over 20 years

Science News

(NewsNation) — Marijuana abuse has increased by 245% in children since 2000, a new study found, while alcohol abuse has declined.

A study in the journal Clinical Toxicology found there were 338,727 cases regarding “intentional misuse and abuse exposures” for all substances between 2000 and 2020, with a peak in 2011. Researchers got their data from calls reported to the National Poison Data System between Jan. 1, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2020.

Marijuana exposure rates, according to the study, had the highest average monthly increase overall, increasing in 2011, with a dramatic rise happening from 2017 to 2020.

“Our study describes an upward trend in marijuana misuse/abuse exposures among youth, especially those involving edible products,” researchers wrote.

Meanwhile, lead researcher Dr. Adrienne Hughes said abusive drinking exceeded marijuana abuse from 2000 until 2013.

Hughes, a professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, said use of all forms of marijuana rose, per the study’s findings, but edibles had the biggest monthly increase, according to U.S. News.

Dr. Eliza Holland, a pediatrician at the University of Virginia Health System, said younger children are more likely to have symptoms like seizures and an “altered mental status” when they take marijuana.

“I think we need to remember that the strains that are coming out now are much more potent than they were 10 or 20 years ago,” Holland said on “Morning in America.” “And these strains tend to have more effects on the brain than in other systems.”

Also, Holland pointed out, children are smaller than adults.

“If we’re thinking about the younger kids … a dose is going to affect them worse,” she said.

With edibles especially, it can take a long time to feel effects, Holland added, which is also a concern.

“You never know exactly how much you’re getting,” Holland said.

Still, the study notes, over-the-counter medication, household products and pharmaceuticals are still the most commonly misused or abused substances in youth. From 2001 to 2016, the highest number of youth drug abuse cases were related to the cold and cough medicine Dextromethorphan.

While marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized in a number of states, it is still illegal at the federal level. At least 48.2 million people, or about 18% of Americans, used it at least once in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those who began using the substance before the age of 18 have a greater risk of developing marijuana use disorder, the CDC says.

Watch the full interview with Dr. Eliza Holland in the video player above.

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