Reasons high school students use marijuana: Prevalence and correlations with use across four decades

Megan E. Patrick, Rebecca J. Evans-Polce, Deborah D. Kloska, Jennifer L. Maggs

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    21 Scopus citations


    Objective: Changes in the legality and prevalence of marijuana raise questions about whether adolescents’ reasons for using marijuana and associations between reasons for use and recent marijuana use have changed historically. Method: Using nationally representative data from Monitoring the Future for 1976–2016 (N = 39,964; 47.6% female), we examined changes in self-reported reasons for marijuana use and in the associations between reasons for use and past-30-day marijuana use among 12th graders who used marijuana in the past 12 months. Results: Time-varying effect modeling showed variation in reasons for use among adolescent past-year marijuana users from 1976 to 2016. Social/recreational reasons for marijuana use (i.e., Boredom, Feel Good/Get High, Experiment, Fit In) generally declined in prevalence; the exception was Good Time, which remained quite stable. Prevalence of coping with negative affect reasons (i.e., Anger/Frustration, Escape Problems, Relax, Get Through Day) approximately doubled across 40 years. Over time, social/recreational reasons were consistently associated with greater odds (i.e., Boredom, Feel Good/Get High, Good Time) or lower odds (i.e., Experiment, Fit In) of recent marijuana use. Coping with negative affect reasons, drug effect reasons, and compulsive use were consistently associated with greater odds of recent use. Conclusions: The most common reasons for marijuana use among high school students have shifted markedly in 40 years, with particular increases for coping-related reasons. However, reasons for use remain significant, stable predictors of use. This suggests a move toward riskier (coping-related) use but supports the continued salience of motivation-based approaches for prevention and intervention.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)15-25
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 2019

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    Development of this manuscript was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) research grant R01DA037902 (to Megan E. Patrick). Data collection and manuscript preparation were supported by NIDA research grant R01DA001411 (to Lloyd Johnston and Richard Miech).The study sponsors had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2019, Alcohol Research Documentation Inc.. All rights reserved.


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