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jca's avatar

What percentage of high school kids do you think smoke weed?

Asked by jca (28482 points ) November 13th, 2010

I have two friends who both recently found out their teenage sons smoke weed. Both don’t live near each other, each household is a two parent household, average income, both families live in fairly affluent areas. Both families are far apart on the political spectrum – one is very Republican, and one is very liberal.

When both of my friends told me the stories of how they found out the two different sons from two different families smoke marijuana, the sons each said “Everyone does it.”

Because each is different but they have that one thing in common, I am wondering if everyone does do it, like they said. What percentage of high school kids actually do smoke weed. Can you hazard a guess?

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35 Answers

HungryGuy's avatar

When a teen says “everyone” does it, it means everyone in their social circle does it, not everyone at school. I would hazard that more kids do than their parents realize, and that it’s a fairly high percentage, but it’s by no means all or even a vast majority.

funkdaddy's avatar

I guess some would depend on how often you’d consider to be “doing”.

I’d say from my highschool class 40% tried at some point and 20% smoked at least once a week. Not exactly everyone, but a good percentage.

nicobanks's avatar

Well, I think it does depend very much on where you live. I’ve been told by someone who lived in Chicago for awhile about how rare weed-smokers are there. In comparison here in Toronto, everyone does it. (Or it feels that way, sometimes. If they don’t actually smoke it themselves, they’re well aware of the practice and won’t be shocked to discover you do.)

I was a highschooler 10–14 years ago. My little brother is a highschooler now, and from what I understand, it’s the same culture.

That culture being: most kids smoke weed. Weed is everywhere.

Sure, there’s some kids who don’t smoke it. Goody-goodies. Squares.

;)

Ron_C's avatar

Frankly, I hope they all do and they stay away from alcohol because that’s really dangerous.

Sarcasm's avatar

I would guess that ~80% of high schoolers have at least tried it. But I would say maybe 40–50% actually are smokers. By the time I graduated high school (‘07) I had tried it just once.

marinelife's avatar

“Contrary to popular belief most teenagers have not used marijuana and never will. Among students surveyed in a yearly national survey, about one in six 10th graders report they are current marijuana users (that is, used marijuana within the past month). Fewer than one in five high school seniors are current marijuana users.

Source

Hobbes's avatar

Thing is, one in five is actually a pretty sizable number.

marinelife's avatar

@Hobbes But it is much smaller in terms of percentages than the numbers that were being thrown out above. It is 20%.

funkdaddy's avatar

@marinelife – would it be fair to say those numbers are most likely low due to the way they are gathered and the fact that marijuana use is still illegal?

My wife works in a hospital ER, and even though people are told

1) we don’t care what you use, we don’t report it to anyone
2) what you’ve used will affect your treatment (you might die if you lie)
3) you are getting a drug test anyway

they still lie about what illegal drugs they’ve used around half the time.

nicobanks's avatar

@funkdaddy Why bother asking, then? If everyone will be administered a drug test regardless, and if about half the time people lie in response, why even ask the question? Just curious.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@marinelife I agree with funkdaddy people are a lot less likely to tell the truth on a survey then talking to peers. Even though no real trouble can come to them, its something many worry about.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Upper middle class or private school, probably 75% of the boys, 50% of the girls.

funkdaddy's avatar

@nicobanks it’s not an interview to see if they’ve used drugs specifically, they’re gathering patient history. So you might be asked why you’re there, if you’re there for chest pains, then drug use would be a common cause and would be one of the questions they’d follow up with.

If you’re there for the flu, they wouldn’t ask about drugs specifically.

As I understand it, a drug screen is pretty standard anytime it might be helpful, they’re not just looking for illegal drugs but anything that would help with diagnosis or treatment. So they’ll check blood sugar (or sugar levels in your urine), white blood cells, hemoglobin, etc. They also get an idea how much is in the patient’s system right then (when possible), it’s not just a positive or negative test (although that can be helpful from what I understand), they care more about how it’s affecting them right then.

Also, I’ve worded what I said above badly. My wife guessed half the people who’s test come back positive for some illegal drug have said they hadn’t used anything initially. She says most tell the truth once you have the test results. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking that it won’t show up? Maybe they think it’s not important? I’d be hesitant to say anything in a place with cop cars and state troopers as well, but it’s a point of frustration for the staff, and that’s what I get to hear.

JLeslie's avatar

I never did, but I would say almost everyone I knew did. I think the number is very high, at least 50% have tried it at one time or another I bet. But, that is a guess.

The thing is who cares if everyone is doing it it does not mean I, or the kids in question, have to do it.

nicobanks's avatar

@funkdaddy Thanks for the comprehensive answer :)

DeanV's avatar

I call bullshit on some of this. I go to a school in far Northern California, Humboldt, to be exact, and I’d say maybe 30% of the people at my school have even tried it. I’d say less than 5% are actually smokers by definition.
And Humboldt’s pretty big on the weed. I mean, there was a movie made about it…

wundayatta's avatar

Actually, it’s even less than one in five. According the the General Social Survey, the largest survey of it’s kind in the county, 7.3% of 18 and 19 year olds used marijuana in the past 12 months. (Crosstab of hlth5 vs age). 12.6% of 18 yr olds used, but only 3.4% of 19 year olds used.

funkdaddy's avatar

@wundayatta – those numbers are based on 34 total respondents to the question if they’ve “Used illegal drugs (e.g. marijuana, cocaine, pills)”

The survey has over 50,000 respondents, from the low number of teenagers I’d say they’d be outliers and probably not the best indication. Also a search for whether or not the same age groups have ever tried alcohol turns up almost 10x the respondents which would lead me to believe it’s pretty easy to abstain from any question you’d rather not answer.

Like if someone asked if you’d done anything illegal.

Mamradpivo's avatar

I imagine close to ⅔ds have tried it, and probably 15–20% smoke regularly. Another 15–20% smoke on occasion.

The interesting thing (to me) is that the kids who smoke weed are just like the adults who smoke weed: they’re a pretty broad sample of the population, slackers to valedictorians.

Cruiser's avatar

I never inhaled and can only imagine any “survey” of actual teens will contain similar replies. The reality is a lot of kids do inhale and will never admit it and the Jeff Spicoli’s that do will only serve to skew the results presented as facts.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

When I was in high school is seemed everyone smoked weed but me. I’d guess these days it’s even higher since just about every adult I know who smokes weed and has teens also smokes out with their kids- I’ll go with 70% of teen kids smoke weed.

JLeslie's avatar

@Neizvestnaya it is always shocking to me that some adults smoke weed.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@JLeslie: It’s always shocking to me when I meet adults who don’t smoke weed. A date usually scores a bunch of points right off the bat if he says he doesn’t like weed.

kheredia's avatar

I know A LOT of people who do and they’re all in different age groups. Some are even adults with careers and good jobs. I honestly think people make a really big deal out of it and they shouldn’t. Weed is not such a bad thing. I second @Ron_C , alcohol is more dangerous than weed. Someday, not too far from now, smoking weed will be just like smoking cigarettes and people will just have to ge over it.

The_Invisible_Man's avatar

I’m guessing around 70 or 89%. A lot of people I never thought smoked weed, does. That goes for males and females.

wundayatta's avatar

@funkdaddy You don’t like those data? How about these? The data are from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. They have a tracking poll that has been running for years. It shows teen marijuana use in the last month never going above 10%, even in states where marijuana is legal!

There’s a lot of data that suggests people do answer honestly on surveys, especially anonymous ones. I think that the reason why people think it’s so high is that they hang out with other weed users. Their samples of convenience are misleading. People want to believe a lot of teens smoke, but it simply isn’t true. It may be true that a lot have tried it, but they seem not to smoke very often.

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta Very interesting. I am glad to hear the stats are so low.

casheroo's avatar

75% try it. Probably 20% continue to smoke. Both guesses from my experience.

Brian1946's avatar

This dude Spicoli at Ridgemont High told me that everyone does it, so that would be 100% ftw!

funkdaddy's avatar

@wundayatta – I’m genuinely sorry if you took that personally… I don’t believe 34 people would be a big enough sample size and you mentioned the size of the survey, I just didn’t know if you’d noticed the small sample size for those particular numbers…

From reading the second link, the studies that they’re basing their numbers off of split the age groups at 12–17 and 18–25… so those numbers in the graph they’re using represent what percentage of kids aged 12–17 used marijuana in the last month… I’d suspect the low end of the age scale (12, 13, and 14 year olds) is decreasing those numbers dramatically, maybe by as much as half.

From the 2006 study, the percentage of people age 18–25 that have smoked in the last year is reported at 28% nationally and most states in New England reporting over 35%. This seems a more accurate group to base a sample off of for high school as a whole. Maybe some tried it for the first time after high school, but I would guess at least as many have not smoked in a year but had earlier.

I think we both agree that most anecdotal estimates are going to be high, but I’m simply saying I think the truth is somewhere between the perception everyone is sharing here and the reported survey numbers you would get from asking people if they’ve done something illegal.

link to the 2006 study’s raw numbers (pdf)
link to a summary of the 2006 study from the source

Roby's avatar

Im guessing 99%

wundayatta's avatar

@funkdaddy I was just embarrassed that I hadn’t noticed the small N. I was just racing through to do as quick an analysis as I knew how with the data I knew were available. So I apologize for that.

If we want to talk about personal experience, I think that’s fine. I just hope we would do it without generalizing based on our own experience.

If 35% of 18–25 years olds smoked in the last month, I don’t have any reason to think it wrong. However the important thing to note is that high school age kids aren’t nearly as involved in it as people think. It’s when they graduate that things start to change, I’m guessing, because they can get their own home and then smoke in the comfort of that home.

In my personal experience, I have several friends who get high at least once a week (I see them smoking). I’m sure they do it more often. I know of a couple of other friends who use pot regularly. But that’s a minority—unless there are a lot of other people doing it who don’t say anything about it. But my friends are pretty open about that kind of thing, so I doubt it.

For me, pot does little except make me somnolent and stupid, both feelings I am not all that fond of.

DandyDear711's avatar

this reminds me of the old saying. 70% of men are unfaithful to their wives and 30% lie.

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