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Marijuana Use Statistics

Marijuana is, without a doubt, the most popular illicit drug in use in America. It has retained its popularity through decades, although its use is declining overall. Marijuana is so popular (39.8 percent of the U.S. population has tried marijuana at least once) in part because it is regarded as a relatively "safe" drug. However, efforts to educate youth about marijuana substance abuse may be contributing to its slight decline.

Young adults and marijuana substance abuse

Marijuana use is most common among young adults aged 18-25 (more than 16 percent have used marijuana in the last month. In this age group, reports the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, marijuana is most popular with college students. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control report that 30.2 percent of college students have used marijuana in the past year.

It is worth noting that marijuana use is trending down in this segment of the population. Last year college student use is down from 33.3 percent in 2005. And young adults as a whole (this number includes college students) report a drop from 28.2 percent last year use to 27.7 percent.

High school students and marijuana use

Like marijuana use among college students and young adults, marijuana use is dropping overall with high school students. Here are some of the numbers, according to the Monitoring the Future survey:

8th graders: Past month use down to 5.7 percent in 2007 from 6.5 percent in 2006. Also, use at least one time has dropped from 15.7 percent in 2006 to 14.2 percent in 2007.

10th graders: Past month use has remained stable at 14.2 percent, but lifetime use has dropped slightly, from 31.8 percent in 2006 to 31.0 percent in 2007.

12th graders: This is an interesting age group, since it is the only group that has seen an increase in marijuana use over the past month, from 18.3 percent in 2006 to 18.8 percent in 2007. However, those that have tried it once in a lifetime have actually dropped from 42.3 percent to 41.8 percent.

It is worth noting that most high school students think that smoking marijuana regularly constitutes a great risk. However, as high school students age, they change their attitudes about marijuana use. Of 8th graders, 74.3 percent think that smoking marijuana regularly poses a risk. Amongst 12th graders, that number is 54.8 percent. Additionally, most high school students do not think that it is a problem to try marijuana once. Only 18.6 percent of high school seniors see problems associated with one time marijuana use.

Marijuana as a "gateway" drug

One of the dangers of marijuana is that it is considered a "gateway" drug. That is, those who use marijuana are more likely to move on to "harder" and more dangerous drugs like heroin and cocoaine. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that the younger someone is when he or she uses marijuana, the more likely he or she is to use other drugs when they reach adulthood.

Here's how some of the "harder" drugs compare in terms of use:

Cocaine: 62 percent of adults who had used marijuana before the age of 15 have used cocaine at some point during their lives. For those who had never used marijuana, that number is 0.6 percent.

Heroin: Those who use marijuana in youth are more likely to use heroin. That number is 9 percent as compared to 0.1 percent for those who had never used marijuana.

Psychotherapeutic drugs: 53.9 percent of those who used marijuana before the age of 15 report that they have also tried to use psychotherapeutic drugs for non-medical uses. The rate for those who have not used marijuana is 5.1 percent.

It is clear that marijuana use can pre-dispose people for substance abuse later in life.

Even with marijuana use on the decline in general, it is clear that with 2.1 million people using marijuana for the first time each year, this is still an issue.