Marijuana Use Interferes with Life
Young people may interpret the acceptance of marijuana use, medical marijuana and decriminalized marijuana, accompanied by marijuana advertising and the presence of dispensaries and grow operations as a green light to use marijuana. The premise that marijuana is a medicine and therefore safe sends a mixed message. For decades laws and firm “no use” messages have deterred pot use. But, today there is a 180 ° shift occurring in the marijuana messaging. It is important to know the facts. It is important to talk to your kids and young adults.
Talking to Adolescents and Young Adults
Marijuana is NOT the drug the majority of the public believes it to be. Marijuana is much more potent, and is changing quickly as there is a continual quest to strengthen it. In 1988, the average THC content was 3.59%, and today, the THC content is typically 12 to 15% but can reach 30% with high-tech growing methods. (THC, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.)Marijuana-infused food products use concentrated super strength marijuana which is procured through extraction by using solvents to strip the cannabinoids from the marijuana plant resulting in a THC-rich product. The THC content can reach over 80%.
Packaged marijuana-infused edibles often contain 100 milligrams (mg) of active THC. There is no scientific research that defines safe dosages of THC, hence the very real threat of overdosing/poisoning. Ten milligrams is considered by many to be single serving. Portion sizes are problematic. One cookie can have six servings, but cookies and candy bars are usually consumed in an individual serving.
Edibles are attractive to young people. Smoking is a deterrent for some children, but eating cookies, candy bars and brownies is tempting and easily hidden.
The onset of action for smoking marijuana is 10-15 seconds, and it is 30-60 minutes for marijuana-infused edibles. Smoking gives the user an immediate sense of what they are taking and how it is affecting them. With slow-onset of action, oral users are prone to repeat or increase the dose and risk taking too much and accumulating lethal amounts of THC in the body.
With higher THC accumulating from repeatedly taking the slow-onset oral marijuana edibles, the risk of drug-drug interaction increases. Marijuana suppresses the vomiting reflex. The overdose/poisoning and interaction is increased since the person will not have a vomiting reflex which can be protective. As an example, on college campuses binge drinking and marijuana smoking is more dangerous than binge drinking alone.
Comparing how marijuana use interferes with young people’s lives, adolescent and young adults, to how marijuana use interferes with the lives of the rest of the population is not a level playing field.
Adolescents’ brains are not fully developed and don’t fully develop until the early to mid- twenties, making them vulnerable to dependence and long-term changes in the brain. Neuropsychological decline appears in adolescents after persistent marijuana use, and cessation of marijuana use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning.
Casual marijuana use by young people, ages 18 to 25, was found to produce significant abnormalities in the brain regions specific to emotion and motivation. Changes occurred in the shape, volume and density of the brain, and the more the young adults smoked the more abnormal the brain regions became. This according to a study done by Northwestern Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. The co-senior authors were Hans Breiter, M.D. and Jodi Gilman, Ph.D.
Gilman explained that, “Drugs of abuse can cause more dopamine release than natural rewards like food, sex and social interaction. In those you also get a burst of dopamine but not as much as in many drugs of abuse. That is why drugs take on so much salience, and everything else loses its importance.” 1
Marijuana can impair learning and motor coordination, perception, judgment, thinking, and memory. The users have difficulty sorting out information, synthesizing and classifying information correctly, and understanding subtle shades of meaning. It can take up to six weeks to regain normal functioning. Marijuana use can lead to poor attendance, dropping out of school, delinquency and behavioral problems.
Marijuana use contributes to “college students skipping more classes, spending less time studying, earning lower grades, dropping out of college, and being unemployed after college.” 2
Teens smoking marijuana regularly (20 times a month) before age 18 show an average IQ decline of 8 points by age 38. 3
Addiction interferes with life. Marijuana is addictive, with known dependence and withdrawal symptoms. A dependent user is one who keeps using despite significant health, social or family problems. 4
Research indicates 9 percent of marijuana users become addicted. Alarmingly, one in six, 17 percent, who start in their teens will become addicted, and 25-50 percent of those teens using daily will become addicted.5
The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, NSDUH, survey found 7.1 million Americans dependent on illegal drugs and 4.5 of those were dependent on marijuana.6 A 2009 survey found 18 percent of those being admitted to drug treatment programs, 12-years of age and older, reported marijuana as their primary drug of choice. Of those under 15-years of age, 61 percent reported marijuana as their primary drug of choice.7
- Marijuana use interferes with driving. The THC in marijuana is, unlike other drugs, fat-soluble; it stays stored in the body’s fat cells for weeks, even months.
Research shows that a single marijuana joint with a moderate level of THC can impair a person’s ability to drive for more than 24 hours (Leirer et al, 1991). Alcohol and marijuana together produce higher intoxication than marijuana alone or alcohol alone. Studies show that low to moderate doses of alcohol and THC in combination is exceedingly dangerous and renders a driver incapable of driving safely. A person driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana is two times more likely to risk a fatal crash than a sober person.8
Marijuana impairs cognitive and psychomotor performance. It can slow reaction time, impair motor coordination, limit short-term memory, and make it difficult to concentrate and perform complex tasks. Spatial perception is distorted and time perception is impaired so that perceived time goes faster than clock time.
In 2010, 12 percent of fatal crashes involved marijuana, compared to 4 percent in 1999. One of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes tests positive for marijuana.9
The CASA Back to School Survey, National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens found that teens who say their parents would not be extremely upset if they found out they smoked marijuana are four and a half times likelier to have used the drug (45 percent vs. 10 percent).
(Back to School Survey, National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens, – Attending Religious Services: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University CASA), August 2012. http://www.casacolumbia.org/addiction-research/reports/national-survey-american-attitudes-substance-abuse-teens-2012)
Protecting Children from Daily Marijuana Dangers in a Marijuana Culture
Car pool drivers who smoke pot and drive.
Bus drivers who smoke pot and drive.
The parents of your children’s friends who smoke pot and extend invitations for sleepovers, play dates, and parties.
Day-care providers and babysitters who smoke pot.
Counselors, teachers and coaches in park district activities, boys’ and girls’ clubs, YMCAs, and sports leagues who smoke pot.
Teachers who smoke pot.
Life guards and swimming instructors who smoke pot.
1 Hans Breiter, M.D., Jodi Gilman, Ph.D., Journal of Neuroscience, April 16, 2014, http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2014/04/casual-marijuana-use-linked-to-brain-abnormalities-in-students.html#sthash.BbMuPnu1.dpuf
2 Marijuana use increases risk of academic problems, University of Maryland, USA TODAY, June 7, 2013.
3 Persistent Cannabis User Show Neuropsychological Decline from Childhood to Midlife, Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development, Dunedin, New Zealand 2012.
4 Adolescent Pot Use Leaves Lasting Mental Deficits , http://today.duke.edu/2012/08/potiq, M.H. Meier, Avshalom Caspi, et al. 2012. “Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline to midlife.”
5 Budney AJ, Vandrey RG, Hughes JR, Thostenson JD, Bursac Z. Comparison of cannabis and tobacco withdrawal: Severity and contribution to relapse, Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, e-publication, March 12, 2008.
6 Marijuana Abuse, Is Marijuana Addictive, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-abuse/marijuana-addictive.
7 Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies, HHS Pub. No. (SMA) 11-4658, Rockville, MD, SAMHSA, 2011.
8Treatment Episode Data Set (Teds) Highlights-2009: National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies, DASIS Series: S-45, DHHS Publication No. SMA 09-4360 Rockville, MD, 2008.
9Signs Point to Sharp Rise in Drugged Driving Fatalities , Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Journal of Epidemiology, January 29, 2014.