More About Marijuana

No Big Deal?

A concerned mom told me at a gathering, “At least he’s just smoking marijuana.”  Over four years later I saw that same mother again.  Her son was still where he was in life when we last talked.  “At least he’s just smoking marijuana,” she said.  “At least I think he’s just smoking marijuana.” It used to be the great staller of the way forward and still is.  But these days it’s so much more than that. It’s potent, it’s scary and it’s on the move.

To make my point, “Each year more teens enter addiction treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than all other illegal drugs combined.” – National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence. COMBINED.

Marijuana was the third drug that broke my heart.   Cigarettes and alcohol didn’t prepare me for the pot find in Ted’s backpack.  My security threat level upped to yellow; gateway color to the eventual red.

Kids — and many adults for that matter — are very good at insisting that marijuana is harmless.  They’ve done their homework and they’ve fine-tuned their argument.  They have examples.  They have websites.  They ask us if we smoked pot.  They believe the comments under You Tube posts and argue that no state in it’s right mind would legalize a dangerous drug. Well, they got us on that one.

What I find fascinating in the debates is that people in recovery for drug addiction are not polled   Only the self-proclaimed experts who currently smoke marijuana weigh in. The young people I know in recovery say marijuana is a gateway drug. Some say they “smoked non-addictive marijuana every single day,” until it was not enough.

You decide for yourself.  Start with some readable research from Educating Voices on marijuana.

teen boy smoking marijuana

Is marijuana addictive?

Contrary to common belief, marijuana is addictive. Estimates from research suggest that about 9 percent of users become addicted to marijuana; this number increases among those who start young (to about 17 percent, or 1 in 6) and among people who use marijuana daily (to 25-50 percent).

Long-term marijuana users trying to quit report withdrawal symptoms including irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which can make it difficult to abstain. Behavioral interventions, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational incentives (i.e., providing vouchers for goods or services to patients who remain abstinent) have proven to be effective in treating marijuana addiction. Although no medications are currently available, recent discoveries about the workings of the endocannabinoid system offer promise for the development of medications to ease withdrawal, block the intoxicating effects of marijuana, and prevent relapse.

How does marijuana affect a user’s life?

Research shows marijuana may cause problems in daily life or make a person’s existing problems worse. Heavy marijuana users generally report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health, more relationship problems, and less academic and career success compared to non-marijuana-using peers. For example, marijuana use is associated with a higher likelihood of dropping out of school. Several studies also associate workers’ marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers’ compensation claims, and job turnover. Read more on marijuana. From NIDA, National Institute on Drug Abuse.  Last updated January 2014.

How do I talk to my teen about marijuana?

Self-education and this brochure are helpful.  Order or download the short booklet, Teens & Weed: Still a Big Deal; A Parent’s Guide to Talking with a Teenager about Marijuana published by RosecranceNIDA puts out the booklet, Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know (revised) or read about it on that page.

For teens themselves, you can order the, Marijuana: facts for teens (revised) booklet by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or they can log on themselves to NIDA for teens. If they don’t like the name of that agency, try for younger teens.

 “At least he’s just smoking marijuana,” she said.  “At least I think he’s just smoking marijuana.”

Give me the facts about marijuana.

Rosecrance offers general factoid information about marijuana specific to six states.  Here is Wisconsin’s marijuana fact sheet, It’s drug sheet number 10 of 13 available info pages on various drugs.

As I listed as a top pick On My Bookshelf, Reefer Sanity; Seven Great Myths about Marijuana is a short, informative read.  The forward is by former congressman, Patrick J. Kennedy.  Myth 1: Marijuana is harmless and nonaddictive.

On the high road

One in five teen drivers surveyed in a recent poll has admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana, according to a recent study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). And many of these teenagers don’t seem to think driving while high is a big deal. Thirty-six percent of teens who have driven high say marijuana doesn’t distract them from driving, the report continues.

But marijuana does seem to affect drivers. Pot is the most common illegal drug found in drivers who die in car accidents, according to “Marijuana: Facts for Teens,” a booklet published in 2001 and most recently revised in March 2011 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Marijuana affects a number of skills required for safe driving—alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time—so it’s not safe to drive high or to ride with someone who’s been smoking [pot],” the NIDA booklet continues. High drivers have a hard time judging distances and reacting to signals and sounds, NIDA adds. — US News and World Report, March 7, 2012 by Laura McMullen.

Not your 70’s pot

Seven years ago I proudly reported to my 20 year old friend, “I know about drugs.”  “No you don’t, Sarah.”  I looked at her.  “You don’t.  It’s a much different world than when you were our age.”  Oh man, was she right.

“Marijuana products today are far stronger than in the past, which may explain why more people are overdosing or getting into car accidents, Volkow (director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse) says. The concentration of the main active ingredient in marijuana – tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC – has quadrupled (emphasis mine) since the 1980s, increasing to about 12% today, according to a June article by Volkow in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Some of the new, edible marijuana products – from cookies to chocolates – can be 10 times stronger than traditional joints.”  Read the rest of the USA Today article, Marijuana Poses More Risks than Many Realize  with more questions and answers about marijuana.

Something to share with friends:

  • “Some marijuana samples show THC concentrations exceeding 30 percent.  If we were talking about alcohol, this increase in intoxication potential would be like going from drinking a “lite” beer a day to consuming a dozen shots of vodka.” From Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana.
  • “Though alcohol (notably beer) remains far and away their drug of choice, teens are three times likelier to be in treatment for marijuana (partly as a result of drug courts) than for alcohol and five times likelier to be in treatment for marijuana than for all other illegal drugs combined.” From High Society: How Substance Abuse Ravages America and What to do About It.
  •  “12 to 17 year-old children who used marijuana were 85 times more likely, those who drank were 50 times more likely, and those who smoked were 19 times more likely to use cocaine than children who had never used those gateway substances.” IBID

Legalization of marijuana

This is a whole other debate.  Consider a few things as an introduction; “Our two legal drugs are the biggest contributors to healthcare costs in this country…The costs of these drugs to society greatly overshadow any gains derived from their taxation…These costs — from healthcare expenditures due to alcohol and tobacco use, to lost productivity to accidents — are ten times greater than any tax revenue federal and state governments receive from the taxation of these two legalized drugs.” From a report prepared for the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

“For every dollar in tax revenue we get from alcohol and tobacco sales, we lose ten dollars in social costs.” Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D. Director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida.  Educating Voices, Inc. is an excellent resource to get up to speed on all things marijuana.

Medical marijuana

The American Medical Association has not approved medical marijuana. “The AMA’s 527-member House of Delegates decided during its interim meeting in National Harbor, Md., to retain the long-standing position that “cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern.” US News and World Report, Nov. 20, 2013.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved medical marijuana. “The FDA has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication. The agency has, however, approved one drug containing a synthetic version of a substance that is present in the marijuana plant and one other drug containing a synthetic substance that acts similarly to compounds from marijuana but is not present in marijuana. Although the FDA has not approved any drug product containing or derived from botanical marijuana, the FDA is aware that there is considerable interest in its use to attempt to treat a number of medical conditions, including, for example, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, neuropathic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and certain seizure disorders.”  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Something to share with friends:

  • “A recent study in 2007 examining California’s average “medical” marijuana patients found that the average “patient” was a 32-year-old white male with a history of drug and alcohol abuse and no history of a life-threatening disease. 2  Additionally, in Colorado, only 2% of users reported cancer, and less than 1% reported HIV/AIDS as their reason for cannabis. In Colorado, the average age of cardholders is 41 and 68% are male.3”  

Footnotes: 2. O’Connell, T and Bou-Matar, C.B. (2007). Long term cannabis users seeking medical cannabis in California (2001–2007): demographics, social characteristics, patterns of cannabis and other drug use of 4117 applicants. Harm Reduction Journal, 3.Colorado medical marijuana patient statistics, found at: