Marijuana Use and Abuse
President Obama’s drug czar expressed his concerns over the implications of legalizing marijuana and advocating the drug’s medicinal benefits.
“We are certainly not sending a very good message when we call it medicine and legalize it,” R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told The Oregonian in an exclusive interview.
Kerlikowske made a quick stop in Portland last week to meet privately with some community leaders to talk about Oregon’s prescription drug abuse problem. He said the issue about marijuana was also discussed, saying it “always comes up.”
The former Seattle police chief cited the result of a 2012 survey which found that more California drivers tested positive for marijuana use than for alcohol.
Kerlikowske stressed that his concerns about marijuana center on public health, and that efforts to legalize the drug send the wrong message to young people.
Although medical marijuana is legal in some states and recreational marijuana use has been recently approved in Washington state and Colorado, the drug remains illegal under federal law. In 2011, the the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected a petition to reclassify marijuana’s federal status, saying the drug has “no accepted medical use.”
Earlier this month, Kerlikowske slammed medical marijuana during a speaking engagement in San Francisco, the San Francisco Examiner reports. He said: “Medicinal marijuana has never been through the FDA process. We have the world’s most renowned process to decide what is medicine and what should go in peoples’ bodies. And marijuana has never been through that process.”
The fight against substance abuse in Florida is bearing good results as more teens are keeping their hands off illegal substances, according to the 2012 Youth Substance Abuse Survey.
Although alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are still among the most widely abused substances in the state, the survey shows lesser teens are using them compared to the previous years.
In Indian River County, alcohol use among teens went down from 33 percent in 2010 to 26 percent in 2012. Cigarette smoking dropped from 12 percent to 8 percent in the same period, while marijuana use declined from 15 percent to 13 percent, the WPTV reports.
In St. Lucie County, alcohol use dropped from 30 percent in 2010 to 25 percent in 2012. Marijuana use dropped from 13 percent to 11 percent in the last two years.
In Orange County, a notable decline was also observed. The number of middle and high school students in the area who reported lifetime use of alcohol decreased from 49.5 percent in 2010 to 46.8 percent in 2012. Past 30-day underage drinking also declined from 26.5 percent in 2010 to 23.1. percent in 2012, as reported in the Orange County Government news release.
“Underage drinking is a major concern in Orange County and we are glad to see the numbers trending in the right direction,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. “We will continue to support our schools, drug free coalition members and community efforts to further reduce substance use in our community.”
Past 30-day cigarette use by Orange County students also went down from 7.8 percent in 2010 to 5 percent in 2012, though past 30-day marijuana use remained steady from 11.9 percent in 2010 to 12.1 percent in 2012.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said they won’t slow down in their efforts in preventing substance abuse among youth. “The Orange County Sheriff’s Office and our community partners will continue to focus prevention efforts on the harms of marijuana use, synthetic marijuana use and the non-medical use of prescription drugs among our youth,” Demings added.
The 2012 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey also showed significant decline in substance abuse in Baker County, Duval County, Nassau County, Martin County, and St. Johns County.
Two months after Washington and Colorado voters say yes to recreational marijuana use, a new group was launched on Jan. 10 to halt legalization movement.
Called Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), the organization is chaired by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. Other board members include Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug policy adviser and an outspoken opponent of legalizing marijuana; and David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
“Our country is about to go down the wrong road, in the opposite direction of sound mental health policy,” Kennedy told the Associated Press. “It’s just shocking as a public health issue that we seem to be looking the other way as this legalization of marijuana becomes really glamorous.”
Also member of the board is Sharon Levy, chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on substance abuse, who said she joined the organization because “we’re losing the public health battle” and policy is being made by legalization advocates who might be misinformed about marijuana’s dangers.
The group argues that the U.S. can tackle issues, such as racial disparities in arrest rates and the lifelong stigma that can come with a marijuana conviction, without legalizing pot.
Project SAM hopes to raise money to oppose legalization messages around the country, shape the legalization laws taking effect in Washington and Colorado, promote alternatives to jail time for pot users, and speed up scientific research on the effects of marijuana, the article notes.
Hawaii evokes images of an idyllic paradise where you can go to get away from life’s troubles and clear your mind of negative thoughts while you bask in the sun. (In fact, even writing the previous sentence makes me want to book a flight there now.) But Hawaii isn’t free from troubles. While many of us go there to get away, the state is home to over a million people and they also have the same troubles there that we face here, one of them is drug abuse.
Teenagers are teenagers no matter where they grow up and they will be tempted to experiment with drugs, even if they’re living in what many of us consider to be the epitome of tropical paradise.
I don’t mean to block out the sunshine and spoil the dreamy visions in your head but here are some cold, hard facts. (I’ve rounded percentages to the nearest whole number.)
According to studies done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 13,000 adolescents (just over 13%) in Hawaii use illicit drugs, with 10,000 (about 10%) using marijuana and 6,000 (6%) using some other illicit drug.
About 14% of adolescent males and 19% of adolescent females drink alcohol, with 10% of males and 12% of females engaging in binge drinking.
Surprisingly, many more adolescent females than males are dependent on alcohol (4.6% versus 1.6%) and are also dependent on or abuse illicit drugs (7.7% versus 4.4%).
Like the rest of the U.S., marijuana is the main illicit drug used by Hawaiian adolescents, but prescription pain relievers are also abused there, with 2,000 males and 3,000 females using pain relievers non-medically in the 12 months prior to being interviewed for studies.
Data from the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), an annual 1-day census of clients in treatment, found that adolescent males accounted for 55% (3,673) of the 6,734 adolescent substance abuse admissions in Hawaii on the day the study was performed.
Of the total male admissions, 22% were drugs only, 67% were alcohol and drugs, and 10% were alcohol only.
Of the adolescent female admissions, 17 % were drugs only, 68.9 % were alcohol and drugs, and 12.5 % were alcohol only.
Among adolescent admissions, marijuana and alcohol were the most prevalent substances abused.
Of the total male admissions, 77% (2,827) reported alcohol use and 87% (3,178) reported marijuana use.
Of the total female admissions, 81% (2,493) reported alcohol use and 81% (2,465) reported marijuana use.
Even more alarming, 8% of male admissions (308) and 14% (436) of female admissions reported methamphetamine use. Similarly, 5% of males (168) and 6% (169) of females reported cocaine use.
In addition to the N-SSATS info, data was also derived from the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), which provides information on annual treatment admissions.
Okay, those are enough eye-popping numbers to let you know that, paradise or not, Hawaii is also facing a drug abuse epidemic like the rest of the country.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Marijuana in the Aftermath of Legalization in Colorado and Washington
It has been over a month since voters from Colorado and the Washington decided it is time for the two states to legalize recreational marijuana use. The ruling is, without doubt, a major triumph for marijuana proponents. But for many parents, it created a personal dilemma in terms of explaining to kids how the once-banned-substance is no longer illegal.
“This is a great time for parents to sit down with their kids and explain the fact that just because something is no longer a crime does not mean it’s necessarily good for you. We need to have a heart-to-heart and say, ‘Please don’t do this until you’re older and the risk is less for you,’” Alison Holcomb, the drug policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington and a mother to a 4-year-old child, told Healthland Time.
Roger Roffman, a professor emeritus of social work at the University of Washington (UW) who has studied interventions for high schoolers who use pot, said that in some families it is still possible for teens to make good decisions despite having parents who drink alcohol or smoke marijuana. “In principle, if parents can drink alcohol or smoke marijuana responsibly in front of teens, they can also do it responsibly in front of young kids,” he said.
For Rick Steves, a Washington-based travel guru, discussing marijuana to his kids even before the legalization measures were passed in Colorado and Washington has greatly help them in making informed decision even now that recreational use of pot is no longer prohibited.
When Steves joined the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in 2003, he invited the group’s president to his home to discuss pot and pot law with his children.
“I wanted to explain to my kids that this is not pro-drugs but pro-civil liberties,” says Steves, whose children are now 21 and 25. “I told them this is something adults should be able to do, but it is not any more appropriate for kids than driving a car or using a chainsaw.”
But while not all parents can have the privilege to invite professionals to their homes like what Stevens did, there are still several ways to help your kids understand why it’s important to become well-informed about the dangers of drug use and abuse, as well as respect the laws. Experts agree that parents should be a good role model to their kids.
“…think about how their marijuana use is being construed by kids. I personally think it’s a bad idea to use marijuana in front of your kids,” said Inga Manskopf, a prevention specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
The debate over marijuana legalization continue to heat up especially after voters from Colorado and Washington approved on Tuesday election the measure that would allow recreational marijuana use. But what does this mean to college students, particularly to athletes who are required to stay drug-free? Are schools going to change their drug policy or will they continue to comply with federal drug laws?
Days after Colorado and Washington residents cast their votes, the federal government maintained it won’t change its enforcement of drug laws, which means marijuana will remain illegal. For the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the decision of the residents from the two states would not impact the association’s drug testing rules, according to a statement cited in The Seattle Times report.
“The NCAA banned-drug and testing policies are not tied to whether a substance is legal for general population use, but rather whether the substance is considered a threat to student-athlete health and safety or the integrity of the game,” the statement said.
Taking the same stand is the University of Washington which earlier told the USA Today they won’t be changing their drug policies despite voter’s approval of the marijuana legalization measure.
“If someone thinks they are going to walk around campus smoking a joint, it’s not going to happen,” says University of Washington spokesman Norman Arkans. “We don’t see that it will change our policies very much … While it may be legal two blocks off campus, it will be illegal under federal law, so it will be illegal on campus.”
Even the University of Colorado-Boulder doesn’t consider changing their policy anytime soon. For the University of Denver, they said they “will comply with state, local and federal laws.”
In addition to Colorado and Washington, voters in Detroit and four other Michigan cities approved ballot measures to legalize the possession and use of cannabis by people age 21 and older. It wasn’t known yet whether or not colleges in Detroit would follow the ruling.