DISCLOSURE: Please know that I understand that not all teens use drugs, however many of our children will be entering middle school and high school. What we and the medical industry consider medical marijuana, is completely different than what is sold in the streets. This post is longer than normal and is filled with facts that make great talking points for you and your children.
With the nation turning the tide on legalizing marijuana, it’s important for parents to understand the essential facts about the drug and how it affects the growing mind and body. It may become more commonplace in American culture, however, the ways it impacts adolescent children hold true. For parents with teenagers at home, here are the 10 facts you need to know about marijuana and how it impacts adolescence:
Marijuana is a mind-altering drug.
According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA), marijuana—also called weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, and a vast number of other slang terms—is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried, shredded leaves and flowers of Cannabis sativa or hemp plant. There are many ways for people to smoke marijuana. The main psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical in marijuana, responsible for most of the intoxicating effects that people seek, is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The chemical is found in resin produced by the leaves and buds primarily of the female cannabis plant. Evidence demonstrates that marijuana – which has skyrocketed in average potency over the past decades – is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents.
Drugged drivers killed more folks than alcohol last year.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, data gathered across the U.S. shows for the first time that drivers killed in crashes were more likely to be on drugs than drunk, with marijuana involved in more than a third of fatal accidents in 2015. In fact, the report found that forty-three percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes around the country in 2015 had used a legal or illegal drug (i.e. any substance that can impair driving, including illegal drugs, prescription medications, legal non-medicinal drugs and over-the-counter medicines), which was over the 37 percent who showed alcohol levels above a legal limit. Among drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for drugs, 36.5 percent had used marijuana, The increase in drug related driving deaths also coincided with more marijuana legalization with 29 states and the District of Columbia allowing medical or recreational use.
Adolescence & Marijuana Use.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University recently published a study in Human Molecular Genetics which now points to cannabis being a trigger for schizophrenia (a disorder caused by an imbalance in the brain’s chemical reactions) in adolescent youth. Their findings report that “smoking pot or using cannabis in other ways may serve as a catalyst for schizophrenia in individuals already susceptible to this disorder.” In other words, young people with a genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia – and those who have psychiatric disorders in their families– should bear in mind that they’re playing with fire if they smoke pot during adolescence.
Synthetic cannabinoid abuse is a growing problem in the US.
With new versions of the drugs coming to the market every year, new research is examining how the body processes these human-made (in a lab) drugs and the role that genetics might play in their metabolism. The work could reveal genetic factors that increase a person’s risk for experiencing the most dangerous effects of these drugs and lead to new treatments to counteract those effects. In fact, according to Time Magazine, synthetic marijuana is causing health emergencies in youth who don’t know how to differentiate between synthetic and natural marijuana.
Suicide ideation and cannabis use.
According to a study published at Louisiana State University, researchers found that daily marijuana users had more suicide ideation due to the psychological feelings of “a more thwarted belongingness and a perceived burdensomeness.” In sum, marijuana caused users to feel negative feelings about their life and the ways they relate to others.
First time college use of pot highest level in three decades.
These results come from the annual Monitoring the Future study, which has been tracking substance use among young adults for the past 36 years. It is conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Michigan and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Results are based on young adults ages 19-22. The report shows that increasing levels of first-time marijuana use among young adults have been concentrated among college students. Increases show by about 51 percent in 2015, 41 percent in 2014, 31 percent in 2013 and 20 percent from 1977 to 2012. College students are less likely than older adults and noncollege students to have entered the social roles of spouse, parent and employee, all of which reduce marijuana use, researchers for the study report. Many factors unique to college also promote substance use, such as lack of parental supervision, plenty of free time and a party culture, researchers add.
The effects of marijuana use on driving.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association report on drug-impaired driving, “marijuana impairs psychomotor skills and cognitive functions associated with driving, including vigilance, time and distance perception, lane tracking, motor coordination, divided attention tasks, and reaction time.” Drivers may attempt to compensate by driving more slowly and increasing their following distance. Moreover, the report found 44% of drivers said they had driven within two hours of having used marijuana.
Changes in the law concerning marijuana.
According to a research study in JAMA Psychiatry, an online peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association, the research found that a medical marijuana law was associated with increased marijuana presence in fatally-injured drivers in 3 of the 14 states that implemented a law before 2010. The study also found that in Colorado, the proportion of drivers
in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were marijuana-positive was “4.5% in the first 6 months of 1994, 5.9% in the first 6 months of 2009, and 10% at the end of 2011.” In California where marijuana has been decriminalized since January 2011, the research shows that there was no change in THC-positive driving among weekend nighttime drivers, but there was a significant increase in crash fatalities involving cannabinoids.
Several studies published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration examined how marijuana measures changed for drivers on the road, in crashes or arrests, and in fatal crashes. Additionally, there are three types of state laws regarding driving under the influence of drugs:
- Driving Under Influence of Drugs (DUID): illegal to drive while impaired by any drug.
- Zero Tolerance: illegal to drive with any amount of specified drugs in the body.
- Per se: illegal to drive with amounts of specified drugs in the body exceeding set limits.
Drug interactions and synergistic effects or 1+1=3.
Impairment can increase if drugs are used in combination or together with alcohol. Alcohol and marijuana used together are particularly risky. Research gathered by the Governors Highway Safety Association showed that the combined use of alcohol and marijuana “dramatically impaired driving performance” and that use of alcohol and marijuana together produces significantly higher blood concentrations of THC than just marijuana use.
Pregnant teenagers smoking marijuana on the rise.
As reported by CBS News, a new survey shows that 14 percent of pregnant teenagers smoke marijuana. And these results show the number is twice as many as the number of non-pregnant peers who smoke marijuana. Dr. Judy Chang, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, interviewed by CBS News, says “some of the studies that do exist suggest that there are risks to the pregnancy from pot use,” which include “scrawnier babies, kids who have some problems with their thinking and learning abilities, [and] kids who find it harder to do more complicated brain tasks when they are teenagers.”
Parents, Hear Me Out – Parents must be aware of the facts concerning marijuana use and their adolescent children. Be careful when your adolescent or young adult tells you, “everyone does it and I need a medical Marijuana card for my ADHD.”
Also, when you are driving, think about the potentially impaired driver next to you. 2 out of every 3 people on the road may be impaired with alcohol or other drugs after 10:00 PM.
Knowing the facts really is half the battle. I hope this information will help you to engage and inform your teens on the potential dangers they face.
About Louise Stanger Ed.D, LCSW, CIP. CDWF
Dr. Louise Stanger – speaker, educator, clinician, and interventionist – uses an invitational intervention approach with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.
Louise publishes in the Huffington Post, Journal of Alcohol Studies, The Sober World, Recovery Campus, Addiction Blog and other media outlets. The San Diego Business Journal listed her as one of the “Top 10 Women Who Mean Business” and she is considered by Quit Alcohol as one of the Top 10 Interventionists in the country. She speaks all over the country and is the recipient of the 2014 Foundations Fan Favorite Speaker Award and the 2016 Joseph L. Galletta Spirit of Recovery Award. Her book Falling Up: A Memoir of Renewal is available on Amazon and Learn to Thrive: An Intervention Handbook on her website at www.allaboutinterventions.com.