Prevention Connection: Marijuana is Now a Social Experiment

Whether it is used for medical reasons or recreational “highs,” marijuana has become more than a controversial topic.  Arguments for medical use and legalization press forward like an unstoppable force.  Each day, proponents of marijuana reform seem to win another battle.

But as a parent and youth drug abuse prevention specialist, I wonder how these social changes in the acceptance of marijuana will affect our children’s future.

Our generation likes to take credit for drug use because we grew up in the tumultuous 1960’s and 1970’s, though drugs have been used for thousands of years.  The children of the 60’s are now adults pushing for a revolution of the legal status of cannabis.

But there is a very big difference between the marijuana of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, and the marijuana of our children’s generation.  Technological advances allow cannabis plants to be cultivated with much higher concentrations of psychotropic components.  In other words, the street pot of today has an average of 8-13% THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol which causes the “high”) as compared to 0.5-2% THC in the 1970’s.  Some of today’s more expensive strains are created with THC levels in excess of 30%.

No one really knows how this super-pot will affect our children as they grow into adulthood.  We can+not fairly compare the effect of old 1960’s pot on our generation to today’s super-pot on this new generation. Scientists and medical professionals need time to study the long term effects of exposure to high THC levels on the developing adolescent brain.

Longitudinal studies have indicated that teen exposure to low-THC marijuana increases risk of dependency, depression, anxiety, attention deficit, impaired learning, and defective memory. One such 30-year study published this spring showed that I.Q. drops an average of 8 points if a person begins using marijuana before the age of 18 and continues using marijuana to age 38.  There was less I.Q. loss in the group of people who stopped using marijuana in adulthood.  But the least I.Q. loss was in the group of people who did not start using marijuana until after the age of 18.  This data indicates that adolescence is a vulnerable time for marijuana use.

So now we need data on the adolescent brain with today’s high potency marijuana. Well, there is a social experiment going on right now to study the effect of marijuana on today’s adolescent brains.  It is the medical marijuana and legalization reform movement that is going on across this country.  More teenagers will be using marijuana due to loosening laws.  The Colorado Department of Education reported that high school student use of marijuana has increased by 39% from 2008 to 2012.  Middle school student use increased statewide by 50% from 2008 to 2012.

Our children have become the unwitting guinea pigs to a national experiment.  No waivers or consent forms for parents to sign.  No disclosure of potential risks to our children’s future.   We should have the results in about 20 years.

Source:  12th August 2013

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