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Phelps Aside, Pot Use Down Among Young

The news that 23-year-old Olympic swim sensation Michael Phelps had been caught on camera taking a bong hit completely overshadowed other important marijuana news issued Monday.

A study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that marijuana use among 15-year-olds in the U.S., Canada and Europe declined substantially between 2002 and 2006.

Twenty-four percent of U.S. kids reported they'd smoked pot in the previous 12 months; that was the third-highest percentage among the 31 countries in the study. But that figure still reflects a decline of 12 percentage points for boys, and 2 percentage points for girls.

The decline in pot-smoking was found to coincide with a decrease in the number of evenings per week teens spent away from home. (Boys spent 2.49 evenings per week out with friends in 2006, down from 3.14 in 2002; for girls the decrease was from 2.80 evenings to 2.13.) Though reported in study-ese, the connection is clear: Kids who spend evenings at home with their families are less likely to be lighting up than those hanging out in other kids' rec rooms. As we say in the health-reporting business, duh.

The researchers (and authors of an editorial commenting on the study) surmise that kids are spending fewer nights out with friends because they're so readily able to commune with one another via texting, Facebook and other electronic means that they don't need to be in the same room -- or even the same country -- to be socializing. As the study notes, we might want to keep an eye on that: Of course we don't want kids gathering to smoke pot -- but we still want them to gather, right?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  February 4, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Alcohol and Drugs  
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