WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — The amount of high school students who regularly smoke marijuana is significantly on the rise, while the percentage of students who see any risk from the habit has dropped dramatically.

A 2013 National Institute of Health (NIH) survey entitled “Monitoring the Future” finds that only 39.5 percent of 12th grade students view regular marijuana use as harmful – a decrease from last year’s 44.1 percent. Sixty percent don’t view regular marijuana use as harmful.

The survey of 8-12th grade students has also showed a significant increase in the amount of seniors who say the smoke marijuana each day. About 6.5 percent of seniors said they smoke marijuana daily, nearly tripling the 2.4 percent who reported this in 1993. And nearly a quarter (23 percent) of students said they had smoked marijuana in the month prior to the survey.

There is also caution about the increasing strength of modern drugs.

“This is not just an issue of increased daily use,” Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a press release.

“It is important to remember that over the past two decades, levels of THC — the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — have gone up a great deal, from 3.75 percent in 1995 to an average of 15 percent in today’s marijuana cigarettes. Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago,” Volkow stated.

Thirty-six percent of students surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the past year. And 18 percent of 10th grade students said they smoked within the month before the survey.

And experts warn that marijuana use is affecting an increasingly younger set of teens.

“We should be extremely concerned that 12 percent of 13- to 14-year-olds are using marijuana,” Volkow added. “The children whose experimentation leads to regular use are setting themselves up for declines in IQ and diminished ability for success in life.”

In addition to marijuana usage, the survey also showed abuse of prescription drugs such as the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs Adderall and Ritalin. About 8 percent of seniors reported taking the drug for non-medical purposes in the past year.

Cigarette smoking and harder drug use including heroin and cocaine continued on a steady decline among high school students.


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