Recent research by Stanford developmental psychologist Bonnie Halpern-Felsher suggests that most adolescents dramatically overestimate how many of their friends use marijuana. In addition, adolescents who use marijuana themselves treat it as a stress alleviator.
As Californians recently voted “yes” on Proposition 64, legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the study’s findings can help parents, educators and healthcare providers understand adolescent decision-making.
Weed, 420, ganja, pot, cannabis, Devil’s Lettuce — the 20 percent of high school seniors who use marijuana have adopted a diverse repertoire of terms. Halpern-Felsher, who previously studied tobacco use, decided to investigate how teens think about marijuana and blunts, which are marijuana rolled into tobacco leaves.
Her team conducted a survey of 786 students from 10 densely populated high schools across California. They surveyed teens about their beliefs regarding marijuana and their patterns of use.
Their study, featured in “Preventive Medicine,” revealed a stark disparity between teens’ estimates and the realities of marijuana use. While adolescents estimate that about half their friends use marijuana, only about 16 to 25 percent reported actually doing so.