Marijuana use is declining amongst young people in most European countries and North America, and the reason seems to be that teens are going out less, according to an article in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Researchers who set out to find whether adolescents tended to “catch” the pot-smoking habit from unsupervised socialising with their peers, confirmed their hypothesis.

"The more frequently adolescents reported going out with their friends in the evenings, the more likely they were to report using cannabis," they wrote. "This link was consistent for boys and girls and across survey years. Across countries, changes in the mean [average] frequency of evenings spent out were strongly linked to changes in cannabis use."

Besides a decline in evenings out with friends, potential reasons for the decline in marijuana use include prevention efforts, availability or changes in teen preferences. It is more difficult to pinpoint factors behind the decline in evenings out, the authors note. New forms of communication, such as e-mail and text messaging, may have replaced some face-to-face interactions, or that the high rate of marijuana use in 2002 may have increased parental concerns about substance use and made access to the drug and evenings out more difficult.

However, the authors do not think that decreasing teens’ unsupervised times with friends is the answer to the cannabis problem: “An important part of adolescence is exploring and forming friendships, having bonding experiences and finding a safe haven with friends away from adult supervision," they say. It would be better “to help young people find activities together that do not promote marijuana use”. ~ Science Daily, Feb 3 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet