DefinitionPercentage of adolescents (students in grades 9-12 in traditional high schools) who responded one or more times on the [http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/index.htm Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)] to the question: "During the past 30 days, how many times did you use marijuana?"
NumeratorWeighted number of adolescents (students in grades 9-12 in traditional high schools) who responded one or more times on the YRBS to the question: "During the past 30 days, how many times did you use marijuana?"
DenominatorWeighted number of adolescents (students in grades 9-12 in traditional high schools) with a complete and valid response to this question on the YRBS.
Data Interpretation IssuesAlaska has conducted a statewide Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 1995 and biennially from 2003. Weighted data were not obtained in 2005 and therefore no statewide estimates are available for that year. A YRBS survey conducted in 1999 did not include the Anchorage School District and therefore was not considered a valid statewide estimate. No YRBS survey was conducted in Alaska in 1997 and 2001.
Traditional high schools are sometimes called comprehensive high schools. They are public high schools that are distinct from alternative high schools, which serve students at risk of not graduating, charter schools, correspondence schools, and students enrolled in high school in correctional facilities.
Responses are weighted to reflect youth attending public traditional high schools in Alaska.
Questions on current use and ever using marijuana have been on the YRBS for Alaska since 1995.
Why Is This Important?Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States.^1^ Marijuana use alters perceptions and mood, disrupts learning and memory, and causes thinking and problem-solving difficulties. It can have a lasting impact on cognition^2^ and increase risk for certain psychoses.^3^ In Alaska, marijuana was the primary drug of abuse among 25-30% of adolescents (12-17) entering treatment in 2014-2017.^4^[[br]]
1. What is the scope of marijuana use in the United States? National Institute on Drug Abuse website. [http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-scope-marijuana-use-in-united-states]. Accessed 7/16/15.
2. Lisdahl KM, Gilbart ER, Wright NE and Shollenbarger S. Dare to delay? The impacts of adolescent alcohol and marijuana use onset on cognition, brain structure, and function. Psychiatry, 01 July 2013; [http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00053]; [http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00053/full]. Accessed 7/15/15.
3. Wilkinson ST, Radhakrishnan R, D'Souza DC. Impact of Cannabis Use on the Development of Psychotic Disorders. Curr Addict Rep. 2014 Jun 1;1(2):115-128. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4352721/pdf/nihms586901.pdf]. Accessed 7/15/15.
4. Treatment Episodes Data Set, Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions by Primary Substance of Abuse. [https://www.dasis.samhsa.gov/webt/tedsweb/TabYearDotChooseYearWebTable?t_state=AK]. Accessed 9/23/18.
Healthy People Objective: Reduce the proportion of adolescents reporting use of marijuana during the past 30daysU.S. Target: 6.0%
Other ObjectivesHealthy People 2020 Objective SA-4.2:
Increase the proportion of adolescents aged 12 to 17 perceiving great risk associated with substance abuse --Smoking marijuana once per month
U.S. Target: 36.7%
How Are We Doing?Current marijuana use among all Alaska adolescents was 21.8% in 2017, a decline from 28.7% in 1995. Alaska Native adolescents show consistently higher rates of current and ever use of marijuana in their lifetime than all Alaska adolescents. Considering all substances used by Alaska adolescents, only alcohol exceeds marijuana in terms of prevalence. Academic performance is a strong predictor of current marijuana use with those receiving mostly As and Bs having a rate of 18.8% compared to those receiving lower grades with a significantly higher rate of 28.4% in 2017. The Northwest region (34.7%) had the highest current adolescent usage rate in 2017.
Nearly two-thirds of Alaska adolescents (62.5% in 2017) see little harm in smoking marijuana once or twice a week, with 73% of Alaska Native adolescents perceiving little harm in marijuana use. In 2017, one in five (21.6%) of all Alaska adolescents thought their parents would see their smoking marijuana as only a little bit wrong or not wrong at all.
Prevalence rates from the YRBS are initially presented for current marijuana use by all Alaska adolescents, Alaska Native adolescents, and the mean of the national YRBS. These data are followed by the rates for lifetime marijuana use for the same groups. As a basis for comparison, lifetime and current use of a variety of substances are presented. Subsequent analyses display current marijuana use by demographic subpopulations (i.e., sex, age, use before age 13, race/ethnicity, ethnicity, grade level, and academic achievement). Current marijuana use prevalence by regions of Alaska are presented for the most recent time period allowing reporting for all Alaska adolescents and Alaska Native adolescents: 1) 6 Alaska Economic Regions and the 10 assessment regions based upon aggregations of 20,000 population.
The YRBS also asks questions whether students think smoking marijuana once or twice a week has slight risk or no risk of harm; whether their parents consider it a little bit wrong or not wrong at all for them to smoke marijuana; and students' thinking whether there is a pretty good chance or a very good chance of being seen as cool if they smoked marijuana. Each of these perception questions is followed by a regional breakdown using the 10 behavioral health systems assessment regions.
How Do We Compare With the U.S.?In 2017, reported current marijuana use was 21.8% for all Alaska adolescents compared to 19.8% for the national average. Alaska Native adolescents show higher current use and higher rates of ever using marijuana than the national average.
The Healthy People 2020 objectives are measured using the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) includes surveys adolescents aged 12 through 17, which is a different group than the high school students (grades 9-12) surveyed by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).^5^ More than 8 in 10 (82.9%) adolescents in Alaska in 2013-2014 perceived no great risk from smoking marijuana once a month - a percentage higher than the national percentage of 76.5%. The percentage of Alaska adolescents perceiving no great risk from marijuana use once a month increased from 2010-2011 to 2013-2014.^6^[[br]]
5. National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website. [https://www.samhsa.gov/data/data-we-collect/nsduh-national-survey-drug-use-and-health]. Accessed 9/21/2018.
6. Behavioral Health Barometer Alaska 2015. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website. [https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/2015_Alaska_BHBarometer.pdf]. Accessed 9/24/2018.
What Is Being Done?The State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services created a workgroup bringing together partners from Public Health, Behavioral Health, and Department Public Safety to develop resources and public education around the health outcomes of marijuana use. The group uses Alaska-specific data to track the changes in prevalence and attitudes over time to evaluate the public health impact of marijuana legalization. For more information please visit [http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Director/Pages/marijuana/default.aspx].
Evidence-based PracticesResearch on interventions to prevent and reduce marijuana use has been complicated by the legal status of this substance. Due to the limited nature of the research, evidence-based strategies have yet to be established. Alaska is partnering with other states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to develop a series of public health strategies gleaned from the evidence base of tobacco and alcohol prevention programs.