Marijuana Use at School and Achievement-Linked Behaviors

By Finn, Kristin V. | High School Journal, February-March 2012 | Go to article overview

Marijuana Use at School and Achievement-Linked Behaviors


Finn, Kristin V., High School Journal


Marijuana remains one of the most frequently used drugs among adolescents and usage has increased in recent years. In addition to general use, many high school students use marijuana during the school day. The present study focused on achievement-linked correlates of in-school marijuana use by comparing non-users, general users, and school users on a set of school behaviors. The results showed that students who used marijuana in general exhibited poorer behavior on all measures than students who did not use marijuana; even stronger effects were found for school users. Students who used marijuana at school had lower grades, lower classroom participation, worse attendance, more academic dishonesty, and were disciplined more often compared to general marijuana users and nonusers. The relationships between marijuana use and achievement behaviors were similar for males and females, and for Black, White, and Hispanic students. Further research is needed on the motivational structures that underlie school-related drug use.

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Marijuana use is on the rise again among adolescents and continues to be the most widely used illicit drug among our nation's youth. National data from the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study has shown an upward trend in marijuana use since 2008. The most recent survey showed a significant increase in marijuana use for all prevalence periods in grades 8, 10, and 12 (Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2.011). According to the report, approximately one-third of high school students have used marijuana in the past year, and one in sixteen grade 12 students reported marijuana use on a daily basis.

Usage among adolescents differs according to demographic subgroups. According to MTF, reports of annual use consistently show greater marijuana use among adolescent males than females (Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman & Schulenberg, 2010). For example, in 2009, 30% of grade 10 males had used marijuana in the past 12 months, compared to 24% of females. By grade 12, these figures increased to 37% and 29%, respectively. These data also highlight differences among the three largest racial/ethnic groups. In grade 10, Hispanic students reported the highest level of marijuana use (30%), followed by White students (25%) and then Black (22%). While all three groups reported increased use since the previous assessment, the largest increase was among Hispanic students. In 12th grade, White students reported the highest level of marijuana use, followed by Hispanic and Black students. Again, Hispanic students showed a higher rate of increased use compared to the previous assessment than White students. The racial/ethnic group rankings may have differed across the grades because of the higher dropout rate among Hispanic students, resulting in a higher percentage of academically successful Hispanic students in grade 12 than in grade 10.

Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman, and Schulenberg (2010) suggested that one reason for the recent resurgence in marijuana use is that fewer teens report seeing much danger associated with its use or disapprove of its use. For example, in 2010, 31% of grade 10 students indicated that smoking marijuana occasionally was potentially harmful. In contrast, 33% felt that one or two alcoholic drinks every day was potentially harmful, and 41% felt people risked harming themselves by smoking one to five cigarettes a day. Among grade 10 students, 59% disapproved of trying marijuana compared to 81% of students who disapproved of cigarette smoking.

Research to date has focused on general marijuana use, that is, without considering the setting or context, although there has been limited research on marijuana use in the workplace (Frone, 2003; 2006) and in school (Finn, 2006). A national study of work-related drug use found that drug use in the workforce (general use) and in the workplace (work use) are conceptually distinct, and argued that they may have unique antecedents and consequences (Frone, 2006). …

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