The need for marijuana prevention is more urgent now than ever
Why Marijuana Prevention?
The need for marijuana prevention is more urgent now than ever. As more states legalize marijuana for personal and medicinal use, our country is seeing a sharp rise toward a positive public perception of the drug. Many not only think marijuana is a low risk drug but also that it's harmless.
In fact, the divide between the scientific research about the dangers of marijuana use and the U.S. population's misunderstanding has never been greater — resulting in a significant increase in usage. Most young people now use marijuana more than tobacco, because they think that it's safer. And, in recent years, teens and young adults have used marijuana more frequently than alcohol and all illicit drugs combined.
- Research has found that 1 in 6 of marijuana users under the age of 18 will become addicted to the drug.
- Teens who become addicted to marijuana are 3 times more likely to become addicted to heroin or opiates and 7 times more likely to commit suicide.
- The most recent statistics show that almost 60% of new marijuana users each year are under age 18.
- The availability of marijuana is significantly on the rise, especially in the 11 states that have legalized it for personal use and the 33 states for medical use.
Why is marijuana use rapidly rising nationwide, especially among young people?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that the risks of drug abuse increase dramatically in times of transition, such as during the teenage years and when adjusting to life at college. In addition, social norms and the availability of marijuana — especially in states where medicinal and recreational use have been legalized — further increase the likelihood that teens and young adults will regularly use marijuana.
With marijuana becoming the next big tobacco industry, it's no surprise that marijuana is now the most commonly used illegal drug in the country. The national rates of teen and young adult use continue to increase each year.
The NIDA "Monitoring the Future" survey highlighted that today's teens underestimate the risk of using marijuana, believing it to be less harmful than they did just a few years ago.¹
Imagine growing up in a state like Colorado where there are twice as many retail marijuana stores and medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonalds combined.
Why are more young people becoming addicted to marijuana?
The marijuana available to young people today is much more potent than it has ever been.
Since 1972, the average THC content of marijuana has soared from less than 1% to 4% in the 1990s, to an average of 13% today. More potent strains of marijuana often used by young people can have approximately 35% THC content.
Teens and young adults also often experiment with different methods of using marijuana, such as “dabbing” or edibles, which can increase the THC content to 99%. As a result in Colorado, Emergency Room cases related to marijuana have increased 49%.
And, teens are starting to use marijuana earlier than in the past. Some studies suggest that many young people first try marijuana as early as age 12. This escalation in use and increased marijuana strength pose a greater health risk for our young people than ever before.
What impact does marijuana use have on young people's future success?
Research consistently highlights that marijuana use significantly impacts the IQ and academic performance of students. Regular marijuana use in the teenage years has resulted in an 8 point drop on average in IQ.
In addition, daily marijuana users are 60% less likely to graduate from high school and college than students who don't use the drug, due to decreased attendance and academic performance.
Marijuana use is also strongly linked to poorer outcomes later in life such as:
- Higher levels of welfare dependence
- Higher unemployment
- Lower income at age 25
What are the effects of marijuana on emotional and physical health?
Numerous studies have linked marijuana use to mental health problems including increased rates of anxiety, mood swings and psychotic thought disorders.
A twin study at Stanford University discovered that regular marijuana users are 3 times more likely to develop hallucinations and other serious mental health problems than their non-using peers.
In terms of physical health, marijuana smoke provides 70% more carcinogens than tobacco smoke.
Teens and young adults who use marijuana regularly are at much higher risk of developing lung cancer, COPD and cardiovascular problems.
The number of fatal traffic accidents involving marijuana rose by 62% in Colorado since its recreational use was legalized in 2012. And in Washington state, the number of traffic deaths due to marijuana-impaired drivers doubled in the year after recreational marijuana was legalized.
Frequent use during the teen and young adult years clearly has shown how it can have a lasting effect on young people's overall health for many years to come.
While marijuana use has the serious potential to cause our young people harm, we live in times where use of the drug is accepted and normalized more than ever before. The marijuana industry spends millions of dollars advertising the potentially helpful medicinal properties of marijuana, which for young people often minimizes the risk and fails to give them the full picture.
How can schools, health care organizations and parents take steps to protect youth from the potentially devastating effects of marijuana use? How do we provide our young people with the full picture when they believe that marijuana isn't harmful?
After many years of working on the front lines of drug addiction, we've dedicated ourselves to prevention education and empowering communities to protect the youth of America. As experienced, well-rounded educators and psychologists who specialize in substance addiction, we see the use of marijuana becoming the norm.
Our scientific-based, yet relatable perspective opens a transformative dialogue that produces a mutually, well-balanced understanding of marijuana use, which empowers students, parents and educators.
We have partnered with national leaders in the field of e-learning to create an innovative, comprehensive curriculum and customized resource to help educators, administrators and community leaders bring this dynamic prevention education to all of their young people.
We believe it is our responsibility to help young people make more intelligent choices about their health — so they can reach their fullest potential in life.
How does prevention education work?
Decades of research suggest that the most powerful way to protect young people involves actionable, comprehensive prevention. In fact, the most effective prevention efforts include:
- Giving teens and young adults an in-depth education that acknowledges their beliefs and concerns
- Providing schools, health care organizations and families with the education and support to have productive conversations with young people and set healthy limits to help protect them from the potentially devastating effects of marijuana use
Research shows that effective prevention efforts can make all the difference in young people's lives. Together, we can prevent the long-term damage that marijuana use could cause an entire future generation.
¹ Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. (2016). The legalization of marijuana in Colorado: The impact. Latest results for Colorado youth and adult marijuana use. [Press Release]. Retrieved from: Source
² Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., & Miech, R. A. (2016). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2015: Volume II, college students and adults ages 19-55. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, 427 pp.
³ Teft, B., Arnold, L., Grabowski, J. (2016). Prevalence of Marijuana Involvement in Fatal Crashes: Washington, 2010 – 2014. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, pp 1-26.
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