Public Perceptions and Attitudes Toward Adolescent Marijuana Use: Results of a State-Wide Survey
Methods: A sample of 560 adults in Michigan aged 18 and older (mean=49, sd=13.1) were identified through random digit dialing. Most participants (74%) completed the survey through the computer assisted telephone interview while smaller numbers completed the web (2%) or paper (24%) surveys. A vignette technique borrowed from public opinion research on mental illness (Pescosolido et al., 2008) was adapted for the survey. Four vignettes describing marijuana use among adolescents were developed and featured varying contexts, levels of marijuana use and problems associated with use. Questions following the vignettes addressed (1) whether adults recognize adolescent marijuana use as a problem, (2) how they view the efficacy of treatment, (3) how they view help-seeking with mental health professionals and (4) whether they support prevention services for adolescents.
Results: A three group model representing unique perceptions of adolescent marijuana use demonstrated the best fit (BIC = 4219; entropy = 0.95, posterior probabilities ≥ 0.95). In class 1 (“discriminating class” 26.7%), participants had high levels of problem recognition and help-seeking for vignettes where marijuana use was associated with problems (e.g. marijuana possession arrest). Class 2 (“low concern” 7.0%) had low levels of problem recognition and help-seeking behaviors across all vignettes. Class three (“high concern” 66.4%) had high levels of problem recognition and help-seeking for all vignettes. Multinomial logistic regression results suggested that age and substance use were among the strongest determinants of membership for the discriminating group (age OR = 0.90; alcohol OR= 1.72 CI; marijuana OR=3.82; other drug use OR=2.24). Few discernible differences were apparent between class 2 and class 3. Methodological factors (e.g. type of survey) were not significantly associated with any of the classes.
Conclusions & Implications: The current results suggest that most adults have some concerns related to marijuana use among adolescents. Adults generally had fewer concerns with marijuana use that occurred in a social context and was not associated with other problems. Adults were generally more concerned by vignettes that involved marijuana use in multiple contexts (e.g. social settings and alone) and several problems related or potentially related to marijuana use (e.g. falling grades, school suspension, and marijuana possession arrest). Understanding the public’s views related to adolescent marijuana use is important as public perception helps shape what individuals consider to be a problem and what advice is given to adolescents and caregivers of adolescents facing problems related to marijuana.