Teenage marijuana use and the ramifications

Medline Plus is a great source of information for those of us who are interested in our health and the health of others. They state that young teens who use marijuana daily are statistically more probable to have increased suicide risk, and reduced odds of obtaining higher education. 

 Even getting a high school diploma is 60 percent less likely. Not only are these young people seven times more likely to attempt suicide, but eight times more likely to use other illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, amphetamines or hallucinogens, as well as develop a long-term dependency on marijuana after the age of 17 and into their 20s. 

Although these frightening statistics are for everyday users of marijuana, there are significant risks for the same outcomes for teens who use marijuana less frequently, according to a study released in September of this year in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The authors of the study claimed that marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug worldwide, with daily use by about 7 percent of high school seniors in the United States. The authors noted that the outcomes worsen for marijuana users as their usage increases.

Another study found that many American teens receive social media messages that are pro-marijuana several times a day. And because young people are extremely receptive to such messages, there is concern that young Americans may believe that marijuana is not dangerous and acceptable as a recreational indulgence. Researchers at the Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis noted in 2011 that marijuana use contributed to more than 455,000 emergency room visits, with 13 percent of those for patients between the ages of 12 and 17.

Still, another study indicated that drugged drivers involved in fatal vehicle crashes in the United States are more likely to test positive for prescription drugs, marijuana and multiple drugs than they were 20 years ago. The number of those who have three or more drugs in their bodies at the time of the crash have risen to one in five by 2010. As well, 70 percent of those drivers who tested positive for alcohol also tested positive for cocaine, and nearly 60 percent of the marijuana only drugged drivers were younger than 30 years of age.

Many people believe that marijuana is not an addictive drug, but a new study from Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Addiction Medicine published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine shows that 84 percent of teen marijuana users met the criteria for marijuana dependence, including increased tolerance for and use of marijuana and unsuccessful attempts to reduce or cease usage. 

Researchers noted that 40 percent of the teens in the study exhibited withdrawal symptoms which met the criteria for marijuana dependence and for mood disorders.

The authors believe that the general population in the U.S. tends to minimize the risks of marijuana usage and not recognize the addictive component of marijuana. The researchers also noted that among adolescents, marijuana is second only to alcohol in its misuse. As well, they noted that those teens who recognized that they had a substance abuse issue were more likely to make progress towards abstinence whereas those teens who did not think they had a problem did not.

If you think that some young person you know may have a substance abuse issue and needs help, please encourage them to speak to their school counselor or to seek help at www.kauai.gov/antidrug/.

We want to help our young people grow up strong and healthy.

Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.

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