SEATTLE (CBS Seattle) – Attitudes towards marijuana in middle school can have a profound affect on students when they reach high school, says a new study as reported in Live Science.
Researchers say they’ve found a correlation between positive views of pot at an earlier age and intoxicated driving by high school students.
They asked over 1,000 Southern California middle school students about their use of alcohol and marijuana, and how they perceived the drugs. Questions asked whether they thought pot was relaxing, dangerous, etc.
The students were surveyed about their attitudes towards marijuana when they were 12, 14 and again at 16.
At 16, the students were asked if they had ever driven under the influence of alcohol or drugs or had ridden with someone who was driving under the influence.
The students who had positive views about marijuana at 12 were 63 percent more likely to say they had than those who reported more negative views of the drug.
“It is crucial to intervene early to help prevent DUI or riding with a drinking driver in high school,” explained lead researcher Brett Ewing, a statistical project associate at RAND Corp in Santa Monica, California.
The findings show the importance of educating children about drugs and alcohol at a younger age, say the scientists.
“We need to intervene in early adolescence at multiple levels to reduce high school DUI and riding with a drinking driver,” Ewing added. “For example, focusing on not only the individual teen, but also on peer and family influences.”
Older middle school students who reported drinking alcohol in the past month were also twice as likely to report driving under the influence or riding with an intoxicated driver in high school than those who hadn’t used alcohol in the past month.
“Teens who do not start drinking until they are 21 are 85 percent less likely to be in a car crash than those who start drinking before age 14,” Starrla Penick, national program director at Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), told Health Day.
The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.
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