Research is working to catch up on the effects of cannabis on children

Around 33% of seniors in the 12th grade nationwide have acknowledged using marijuana in the previous year, as revealed in a study launched on March 12.

During that same timeframe, approximately 11% of 12th-grade students reported trying delta-8-THC, a lesser-known substance derived from hemp that can induce a gentle euphoric effect, distinct yet milder compared to regular THC from cannabis.

Of specific interest is delta-8-THC because, despite associated health risks, it remains legal at the federal level following the removal of hemp from the controlled substances list after the 2018 farm bill, as highlighted in a related article. Legal in 22 states and Washington, D.C., with limited regulation, some states like Illinois and New Jersey have no age restrictions on its purchase. Worries escalate due to its presence in user-friendly products and widespread availability through venues like gas stations and online platforms.

The data regarding marijuana and delta-8-THC use stem from the recent Monitor the Future study, spearheaded by University of Michigan researchers. The study covered 22,318 surveys distributed to high school seniors in 235 public and private schools across the nation between February and June 2023. Specifically focusing on delta-8-THC, 2,186 seniors in 27 states were randomly selected for the survey.

“Eleven percent is a substantial figure — at least one or two students in each average high school class may be using delta-8. The accessibility of these substances to teens is concerning,” expressed Director Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in a released statement. Volkow emphasized the necessity of educating youth about potential risks associated with cannabis use and ensuring proper mental health care and treatment for those dealing with cannabis use disorder.

The recent study contributes to the comprehension of the youth’s cannabis consumption habits amidst the prevailing widespread legalization, which almost three-quarters of Americans are subject to, as disclosed in recent Pew Research Center analyses: 74% of Americans reside in states where marijuana is legally available for either medical or recreational use, with 88% supporting its legalization for those purposes.

Columbia University’s Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Ryan Sultan, a specialist in cannabis use, highlighted the need for a more nuanced understanding of marijuana’s effects in the current context.

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