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Dec 15, 2011 12:18 AM by Matt Stafford

Teen drug abuse study has ups and downs

Teen habits towards alcohol, tobacco, and drugs are taking dramatic changes.

"We are seeing significant decrease in alcohol drinking behaviors since 1996 when it was very high," says Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institute of Health.

The annual study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows underage drinking is down, and the use of cigarettes among American teens is at historic low levels.

However, the decrease in numbers may not be people quitting tobacco; some teens are turning more to hookahs and little flavored-cigars. Doctors say those cigars are just as dangerous to our health.

"They have flavoring like grape and peach that appeals to kids and they are also able to get around taxation... So in many states they are much cheaper for kids to get," says Dr. Tim McAfee, from the Centers for Disease Control Office on Smoking and Health.

Another concern in this year's survey is marijuana use among teens - it's at the highest it's been in five years. More than a third of the 12th graders admitted to using the drug in the last year. One of every 15 high school seniors reported smoking pot on a daily or near daily basis, the highest rate since 1981.

When News 5 put the study results on our Facebook page, the conversation took an interesting turn; it went more in the direction of "which would the parents prefer for their kids -- marijuana or alcohol." A majority of those parents say marijuana.

Rebecca said to News 5 via Facebook:

"I would rather have my kid smoke pot then drink. I don't think smoking pot is as bad as drinking."

17 people agreed; "liking" Rebecca's comment.

However, another Facebooker, Dolly, posted:

"I think the real problem is absent and/or selfish self-absorbed parents, a lack of expectations, and no discipline. My kids have NO TIME to smoke pot or drink...they are waaaaay too busy...and we talk all the time about choices."

There have been a few others echoing the same tune as Dolly.

Opinions aside; we wanted to check with an expert. Addiction Counselor Richard Harland, with Beyond Milestones Counseling, works with kids in local school districts and says he's noticing the same trends that the study is picking up on in terms of marijuana.

"I'm definitely seeing more kids getting in trouble for smoking marijuana," says Harland.

Harland says, in his opinion, it doesn't make sense to prefer pot over alcohol; in developing minds, he says, both substances can cause emotional issues.

"For the rest of their life it can impair the ability of those regions of the brain to develop like they should," says Harland.

If you want to get involved in this conversation, or start a new one on a different topic; click here to go to News 5's Facebook page.

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