Peer Pressure a Small Factor in Marijuana Use

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Peer Pressure a Small Factor in Marijuana Use

Hadia Mohammadzadah and Shelby Johnson

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Peer pressure, often cited by adults as a common cause of bad decisions by teens, appears to not play a major role in WHS seniors’ decision to use marijuana.
The Trojan Tribune survey (TTS) offered respondents several options to answer the question: “Which of these reasons would you put as the main reason you use marijuana.” The top two reasons given were “I enjoy the feeling,” (28%) and “I feel better.” (2.5%).
1.5% reported that they use marijuana “to fit in.”
“Students think everyone is smoking marijuana but in reality they aren’t,” said WHS Chemical Health Coordinator Judy Hanson. “It’s about perceptions and individuals feeding into their peers’ perceptions.”
The Minnesota Department of Education conducts the Minnesota Student Survey (MSS) every three years. According to their results in 2016 measuring juniors, 22.5% answered that in the last 12 months they used marijuana once or more than once and 77.5% answered they have never used marijuana.
In the TTS, 33% of WHS seniors answered that they used marijuana more than once and 67% of seniors answered that they have never used marijuana.
“I know for a fact that kids come to school high and are undetected,” said Hanson. “That is their norm and the teachers don’t have any other behavior to compare it to.”
According to the TTS, 6% of people smoked at least once on the way to or during school but of those people only 1% smoked all 30 days on the way to school.
“Although it’s a small percentage, some kids use marijuana to mellow them out for the day and it’s usually going to be the kids that are not feeling successful in school,” said Hanson.
According to Hanson other students smoke to bring down their stress levels.
An anonymous senior said, “I get a deeper understanding of what’s going on around me. It chills me out for the day which is why I prefer to do it before school.”
“Anxiety plays a big role in marijuana use for some kids before they come into school,” said Hanson.
Another anonymous senior said, “It makes my first block go by faster. It doesn’t inhibit me from my daily work but instead makes me feel better by reducing my stress. ”
Hanson said there are two groups of marijuana users: the “feel good” users and “feel better” users. The “feel good” users smoke recreationally, and the “feel better” users smoke because they aren’t feeling good about a number of things in their lives. These are the students that are more susceptible to addiction, according to Hanson.
According to the MSS, 5.5% of juniors experimented (1-2 days) with marijuana and 2% used it all 30 days. In the TTS, 8.3% of seniors experimented and 2.5% used it all 30 days.
“Seniors probably don’t perceive [using marijuana once or twice] as a harmful choice, but the younger grades will,” said Hanson.
Hanson said the lower the perception of marijuana harm, the higher the usage.
According to Hanson, people who use marijuana once or twice would be considered as experimental users.
“There’s a lot of kids who will try something maybe once or twice and then they’re done,” said Hanson.
In the TTS, 20% of survey respondents said they felt that any use of marijuana constitutes a ‘problem’’ with the drug. 62% of people said ten days or more (out of 30) is when it becomes a ‘drug problem.’
Hanson said, “There is no exact number” to determine when marijuana addiction evolves. “It will be different for everybody.”
According to the National Institution of Drug Abuse, “People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.”
“Everyone’s expectations of the drug are different because there’s family drug history and mental health that play into it,” said Hanson. “For some people it’s probably not going to have that much of an impact, and others it definitely will.”
“If there is any age group that shouldn’t be smoking it’s teenagers,” said Hanson.

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