Marijuana Use and Abuse
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.
Maine was awarded a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to be used in reducing alcohol and drug use among the youth.
According to a press release from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the state will receive nearly $891,000 per year for three years to cut down underage alcohol use among 12-20 –year-olds, and reduce prescription drug abuse and marijuana use among 12-25-year olds.
“Maine was able to make positive impacts in reducing youth substance use and built substance abuse systems and supports with the first Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive grant. This new grant will focus on supporting strong collaboration at the state and local levels to use proven prevention strategies that have produced positive, measurable results,” said Guy Cousins, Director of Maine’s Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHS).
During the three-year project, the Healthy Maine Partnership coalitions (HMPs) in all of Maine’s Public Health Districts will be responsible for coordinating the state’s efforts in promoting public health. Strategies that have been proven to work will be used state-wide. All HMPs will work closely with law enforcement, schools, worksites, healthcare and local government to address problems and opportunities identified through state-produced data.
“We know that we can reach our goals by working with state, district, and local partners,” Cousins added.
According to Maine’s 2012 substance abuse trends report, over one quarter of high school students in Maine reported consuming alcohol in the past month. Among high school students who had consumed alcohol in 2011, under one-third reported starting before the age 13. In terms of drug use, marijuana is the most often used illegal drug in the state, with one in five high school students reported using the drug within the past month.
Drug Free Charlotte County launched a new campaign that will help fight drug abuse in its community. It’s called VerifyTruth.
The movement encourages parents to drug test their kids at least five times a year to help them stay away from using marijuana. Parents can request for marijuana drug test kit, free of charge, which enables them to confirm whether or not their kids are telling the truth.
In a feature on Winknews.com, Drug Free Charlotte County Executive Director Amity Chandler says: “We’re not even saying to parents, do it, we’re saying pick up the test, talk to your teen about, and let them know the option of the test might come up if they’re breaking rules, when they start driving, when they get a job.”
Since June, VerifyTruth has already given 1,000 marijuana drug tests and most parents seem happy with the idea.
In its website, VerifyTruth laid out several reasons to use drug testing, one of them is, for parents to have the opportunity to intervene early if their teens begin experimenting on marijuana and other drugs.
According to a Teen Norms Survey done last year in Charlotte County, 39 percent of high school students said they experimented on marijuana at least once — a 4 percent increase since 2006. An increase in marijuana use was also observed for middle schoolers.
Chandler added that while Charlotte County kids are becoming more aware of the dangers of tobacco, the same cannot be said about marijuana. But through the new campaign, they are hoping to help parents guide their kids in avoiding peer pressure that could lead them to marijuana, as well as reduce the prevalence of drug use in the county.
Frequent use of marijuana can be harmful to the developing brains of teenagers, according to the research findings from Australia.
The 15-year study followed 1,943 teenagers in Australia, ages 14 to 17 years old, to investigate the link between marijuana use and anxiety in adolescents. Lead researcher Louisa Degenhart, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, and colleagues assessed the subjects six different times over the course of a decade and a half. Teens were asked about their cannabis use and were evaluated for depression and anxiety.
According to the study result, teenagers who frequently smoked marijuana were 2.3 times more likely to develop anxiety later in life, while marijuana dependent teens were 2.5 times more likely to have anxiety disorder during adolescence and in adulthood.
The research did not find any association between marijuana use and depression, but the link between pot smoking and anxiety has been clearly observed.
Dr. George C. Patton, one of the study investigators, from the Centre for Adolescent Health at Royal Children’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne, said the results have something to do with the brain development taking place during the teen years.
“During the teen years the parts of the brain that are involved in managing emotions are still developing rapidly and it is highly possible that heavy cannabis use at this sensitive point could have long lasting effects,” Patton said.
A few years ago, a U.S. study revealed that frequent cannabis users consistently have a high prevalence of anxiety disorders and patients with anxiety disorders have relatively high rates of cannabis use.
Marijuana is one of the commonly drugs of abuse in the United States. In 2009 alone, 28.5 million Americans age 12 and older had abused marijuana at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Majority of surveyed participants are 12th graders (34.8%), followed by 10th graders (27.5%) and 8th graders (13.7%).