Medical-marijuanaA national survey find one in 10 Americans age 12 or older have used illegal drugs in the past month. Marijuana use among those in the survey jumped from just over 6 percent to 8.4 percent. Dale Woolery with the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy says marijuana use among young people is a particular concern.

“Nationally this survey shows that youth marijuana use is up. We’ve not yet seen an uptick in marijuana here in Iowa based on the Iowa youth survey, but there are some concerns potentially on the horizon,” Woolery says. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found the number of youth who see marijuana as a danger has dropped.

“When you consider that the potency of marijuana is increasing at a time when youth perceptions of the risk of marijuana — particularly here in Iowa those perceptions are decreasing — it makes you wonder what may lie ahead. We could see an increase in youth marijuana use down the road,” Woolery says. “So, I think education is going to be very important.”

Woolery says the experts need more information to help with the education. “I think it begs for an accelerated research path so that we know more. Based on what we know now, we know that it brings harms, it’s a drug that impairs, and abuse can lead to addiction,” Woolery says. “I think we need to be cautious, and we certainly need to do the research to make good decisions.”

Prescription drug abuse has been an increasing problem among young people as he says they can think they are not harmful because they come from a doctor. Marijuana is now legal in some states, and Woolery says young people can also read that as a message that marijuana is safe for them to use. “As perceptions of risk decrease, the mixed messages continue, you know that could be a recipe for concern. Hopefully Iowans — parents in particular — will continue to educate young Iowans about the potential dangers of marijuana use,” according to Woolery.

Woolery says a new Iowa Youth Survey on drug use will come out in 2016.