Breakout Drug Free

A program of Family Service & Children's Aid

Marijuana: The Truth Hurts

Over the past several years, alcohol and tobacco use among teens has steadily gone down. That’s the good news. The bad news is that by the time Jackson County youth have reached the 11th grade, approximately 42 percent of them have used marijuana. Additionally, eight percent of Jackson County youth have tried marijuana before the age of 13.

Why is alcohol and tobacco use decreasing while marijuana use remains the same, or in some cases increasing? The answer may have to do witheducation and perception. Increased efforts to educate our youth about the dangers of alcohol use and drinking and driving have had an impact on youth perception of the dangers of drinking. National and state anti-smoking campaigns, along with changes to laws regarding tobacco use, have had a significant impact on the perception of tobacco use among adults and youth. How a person perceives the dangers or risks associated with tobacco and alcohol use can have a significant impact on whether or not a person chooses to smoke or drink.

The new medical marijuana law and the lack of focus on educating the public about the risks associated with marijuana use may explain why little progress is being made in reducing the use among youth. “Most middle school and high school students I talk to believe that tobacco is far more dangerous than marijuana,” said Shelly Milligan, Program Coordinator for the Breakout Drug Education Program. “Kids have heard so much about how tobacco increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease but don’t know that the risks are even greater with regular marijuana use. The lack of knowledge about the dangers of marijuana use and the medical marijuana law has created a perception that marijuana has less health risks than tobacco.”

FACTS about the health risks (according to the American Medical Association):

• Daily use of one to three marijuana cigarettes (“joints”) produces the same lung damage and cancer risk as smoking five times as many nicotine cigarettes.
• Toxicity in unborn babies
• Lower levels of testosterone and defective or nonfunctional sperm in male marijuana users
• Increased heart rate
• Decrease in oxygen capacity in the lungs
• Physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms have been demonstrated with heavy daily use of marijuana.
• Heavy (daily) marijuana use impairs critical skills related to attention, memory and learning (these deficits persist up to 24 hours after the user stopped feeling high)

Aside from the health risks, marijuana is often referred to as a gateway drug because surveys show that regular marijuana users are more likely to experiment with other drugs. Regular users typically combine the use of marijuana with alcohol, which is more hazardous than the use of either marijuana or alcohol alone.

Marijuana has negative consequences to an individual’s health, the safety of the community and the health care system burdened with their care.

posted by Shelly in Youth and have No Comments

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