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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Teens Are Using Cigarettes And Alcohol Less But Smoking Pot More

A survey of teens released in December by the National Institutes of Health titled “Monitoring the Future” showed some good news. Both the use of alcohol and tobacco has declined dramatically over previous years but the good news came along with some bad. The use of marijuana by teens has steadily risen over the past several years and daily marijuana use by high school seniors is now at a 30 year high.

The researchers suggested that the decline in the use of alcohol and tobacco are due to efforts to get out the word on the dangers of these drugs. Programs designed to show the dangers of alcohol and tobacco and limit their use by teens seems to be working.

While these programs have shown the dangers of alcohol and tobacco, the dangers of marijuana and other drugs such as spice and ecstasy are getting less attention and are on the rise.

Another problem arises when the subject of marijuana comes up that could lead to a lot of confusion among teens – the legalization of marijuana in some states. Legalized marijuana has gotten a lot of news attention over the past several years and there has been an explosive growth of medical marijuana "drug stores" in those states where it has been legalized. While the legalization is getting a lot of attention, there doesn’t seem to be so much attention given to why marijuana was legalized in those states and to the fact that medical marijuana must be prescribed by a doctor.

Marijuana, just like almost any other drug can have a beneficial use when it is used under strict medical conditions. The use of marijuana has been shown to relieve the symptoms of patients suffering from glaucoma and to patients undergoing chemo-therapy for cancer. In the case of cancer patients, the chemo-therapy destroys the patient’s appetite and they suffer from malnutrition just at the time they need their strength the most. The side effect that most marijuana users know as the “munchies” counteracts the appetite suppressing effect of the chemo-therapy drugs and allows a cancer patient to maintain a healthy weight.

In both of these cases, the patients must have a prescription from a doctor and, although it is doctor prescribed, they are still prohibited from driving a car or operating machinery while under the effects of the drug.

All the teens may be hearing is that marijuana is legal in some states, so it must not be all that harmful. This is where parents need to start a dialogue with their teens and let them know why the drug has been legalized and that it is not your typical "street" type of marijuana. The prescription marijuana sold in these states is grown under carefully regulated conditions by state licensed growers.

In spite of the fact that marijuana may have been legalized in some states, it remains a dangerous, mind altering drug.

Just like alcohol, marijuana, can give its user a false sense of ability – the belief that the user is capable of performing acts such as driving when, in fact they are not.

Marijuana affects the users cognitive and color perception. Use of marijuana can slow a user's reaction time by up to a full second. For drivers, that second can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.

There is some debate on whether or not marijuana is an addictive drug. The addiction may be more psychological than physical as it is with other drugs such as alcohol or cocaine but, real or not, there are people who have chosen marijuana over their careers and their children. It is difficult to conceive of marijuana as a harmless drug when people make those types of choices.

When discussing marijuana with your teen ask them; "If you were going on an airline trip, would it bother you if your pilot was stoned?" "If you needed surgery, would you want your surgeon to be stoned?" Put in that context, most teens would have to agree that they wouldn't want their pilot or surgeon to be stoned. If that is the case, then marijuana must not be all that harmless.

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