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The New Facts About Marijuana – And What Pelham Teens Think About It

Filed in Community/PACT, News, Uncategorized, Youth by on February 3, 2016 • views: 564
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february-marijuana-awareness-month-breaking-cannabis-downAs the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana in many states takes hold, teens and adults may underestimate the effects and risks of using this increasingly available drug. As February is Marijuana Awareness Month, PACT wants to take a moment to update parents on what marijuana use is like today – among other things it has increasing potency and is increasingly accessible — and how the emerging marijuana industry has changed the way people use this drug to get high.

Is Marijuana Legal in New York State?
Another reason it’s time to get up-to-date is that the legalization trend just hit home: as of January, medical marijuana is legal in New York State and there are two Westchester-based dispensaries. New York’s Medical Marijuana Program is extremely restrictive and limited to specific diagnosed conditions that are severe, debilitating, or life threatening. Medical marijuana available in New York is only approved for use in a liquid or oil form to be vaporized or administered via inhalers or capsules. Treating physicians must take a 4-hour course and be registered in order to certify patients for use of medical marijuana. Find out more about this new program by visiting the NYS Department of Health’s website.

The legalization trend and nationwide dialogue around marijuana has helped lead to changes in the perception of marijuana’s risks that are being felt right here in Pelham; it’s just not perceived as a big deal by our teens the way it might have been when we were growing up. This is not a positive trend and studies have shown that as perception of risk decreases, use goes up.

Pelham Teens Perceive Lessening Risk
Of course, much of the decline in perceived risk is because recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in some states, including Colorado and Washington. Couple creeping legalization with the potent reasons why teens experiment with substances in the first place — stress, anxiety, peer pressure, to name a few – and the picture that emerges is troubling. As evidence, here are some statistics regarding Pelham teens’ use and attitudes toward marijuana from PACT’s 2015 Prevention Needs Assessment Survey, conducted among last year’s seniors and sophomores:

  • 36% of Pelham Memorial High School seniors and 10% of sophomores reported using marijuana in the past 30 days.
  • 40% of those surveyed say it is “very easy” to get marijuana. In fact, while students reported that alcohol is getting harder to get, marijuana is getting easier to obtain.
  • Among last year’s PMHS seniors, marijuana usage has become more socially acceptable than using alcohol. 78% think their friends feel it would be wrong or very wrong to drink alcohol daily, but only 26% think the same of regular marijuana use.
  • While 61% of those surveyed see a “moderate to great risk” in using marijuana once or twice a week, a far greater percentage see alcohol as presenting the same danger – 82%.

Parents need to be more vigilant in talking to their teens as more and more research continues to highlight some very real and potential life-long consequences related specifically to adolescent use.

Today’s Marijuana Use Is More Dangerous, and Less Obvious
These changes in attitude are occurring against a backdrop of far more dangerous ways to consume marijuana, with warning signs that many parents might not know about. Here are some facts every parent of school-age children needs to know:

  • Waxes and Oils Are the New Joint: Marijuana is now being concentrated into waxes and oils, which can contain up to 80% THC (marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient), compared to about 4% THC in a joint back in the 1980’s (dea.gov).
  • E-Cigarettes and Dabbing Can Mask Use: Electronic cigarettes are a commonly-used device for smoking marijuana. A “dab” of THC wax is placed inside the e-cig, and heated so that the user can inhale the THC vapor. This process is called “dabbing”, and simple instructions can be found on YouTube and elsewhere. E-cigs can be odorless, or come in any flavor from fruity to minty to cookies n’ cream. Therefore, a marijuana smoker may no longer smell like marijuana smoke or have the classic bloodshot eyes that can also be an outward signal of recent marijuana use.
  • Edibles Can Lead to Serious Overconsumption: Ingesting THC-containing foods is becoming a much more prevalent (and private) way of getting high than it once was. Common marijuana-laced products include cookies, lollipops, goldfish, gummy bears, and brownies. As it can take 20-30 minutes after eating for the effects of the drug to take hold, hospitalizations are occurring, as users tend to over consume because they don’t feel immediate effects.
  • Marijuana Greatly Impairs Driving Ability: It compromises judgment, alertness, concentration, coordination and reaction time. Nationally, about one in eight 12th graders reported driving under the influence of marijuana. The prevalence of high school seniors driving after using marijuana has risen sharply in recent years, while drinking and driving has declined. (National Institute on Drug Abuse, drugabuse.gov).
  • Marijuana Use Negatively Affects IQ: Regular marijuana use by young people can have long-lasting negative impacts on the structure and function of their brains. Research shows that those who used marijuana heavily in their teens and through adulthood had a significant drop in IQ. (NIDA, drugabuse.gov).
  • Marijuana is Addictive: Marijuana is addictive and those who start using as teens, or who are long-term and chronic users, are at greater risk. One out of six users who start young will become addicted to marijuana (Office of National Drug Control Policy, NIDA).
  • Marijuana Use Has Social and Emotional Consequences: Marijuana use causes lethargy, lack of motivation, and emotional impairment. The most common signal that a teen may be using marijuana is mood swings. As “red-eye” and smell may no longer be signals, any moderate to severe change in a child’s behavior and demeanor may be significant.
  • Marijuana Use is Glorified in Pop Culture: Popular culture is full of glamorization of marijuana that adults may miss. As only one example, former child star Miley Cyrus publicizes her use, and positive marijuana messages are sprinkled throughout songs, TV shows, movies, and social media. A lot can be learned by knowing what your kids are watching and listening to.
  • The Lingo for Marijuana Has Changed: “Loud” is a term for high quality marijuana, and “Turnt” is a verb meaning getting high. Look out for subtle use of marijuana symbols on stickers and clothing: the pot leaf is one, and “420” is a code-term for getting high.

Parents make a difference and research shows that they are the number one reason kids don’t use drugs. Now that you’re educated about marijuana use and its perception today, Talk, Care, Guide and Model with your kids — early and often — about the risks of marijuana use and healthy ways to handle stress.

  • Talk: About why marijuana is risky, particularly for youth use, despite the legalization movement.
  • Care: By showing them you understand about the pressures they are under, from peer pressure to schoolwork, and helping them find healthy strategies to reduce stress.
  • Guide: By making clear your disapproval and setting defined rules with meaningful consequences about substance use.
  • Model: By setting a positive example for your children when it comes to substance use.

For more important facts about marijuana, please visit www.pelhampact.org/marijuana and follow us on Facebook and Twitter throughout Marijuana Awareness Month. PACT is a community coalition encouraging youth to make healthy, safe and substance free choices by promoting their positive development and reducing youth substance use.

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