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adolescents

  • by Sabrina Fendrick December 23, 2011

     

    [Fact: Drugs are pervasive in our society and, one way or another, adolescents will be exposed to mind-altering substances.]

    It is an unmistakable reality that a significant number of high school students will try marijuana.  According to the recent 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey, nearly 40 percent of all high school seniors admit to having smoked marijuana in the past year – a percentage that has held relatively stable since the study’s inception over 35 years ago.

    Some want to use this fact as a justification to deny any opportunity to rationally discuss marijuana, its use, and its risks with children in an open and honest manner.  They think that saying anything about marijuana other than encouraging its total abstinence is condoning its use.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

    When society teaches sex education, are we suggesting that all the teenagers go out and engage in sexual intercourse? No.  Rather, it is an acknowledgement that the best way to reduce the negative effects associated with sex (unwanted pregnancy, STD’s, etc) is through honest, objective information that allow people to understand their options and provides them with the tools they need to make informed decisions.

    When we talk to teenagers about the dangers of drinking and driving, are we condoning alcohol use among minors?  No, of course not.  It is, however, a reality that many adolescents will a) likely consume alcohol as seniors in high school and b) have access to a car. Yes, we encourage students not to drink. But, we urge them specifically not to drink and drive.

    We can all agree that teens should not smoke pot, or be using any mind-altering substances. Those are important, developmental years. Still, teens should be educated regarding how smoking marijuana can affect their body’s development specifically, how to reduce any harms associated with its use, and to distinguish between use and abuse. There should be honest, truthful drug education.

    As Kristen Gwynne states in her AlterNet article, “Give young people accurate information, and they will use it to make better decisions that result in less harm to themselves, because teens, like everybody else, do not actually want to get hurt or become addicts.”

    She goes on to say, “Giving students honest information about drugs [will]…increase the odds that they will use drugs safely, and reduce the likelihood of experiencing the [relative] harms associated with [it].”

    By contrast, the Drug Czar and federal law advocates for complete prohibition, limited information explaining the real effects of marijuana and condemning any opportunity, as Gwynne states, to provide “education that helps teens understand their health options, and ways of reducing the harm of drugs.” When it comes to our children, like everything else we teach in school for development and behavioral growth, drug education should be based in reality, not a denial of it.

    In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “If a state expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

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  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director December 15, 2009

    Dear Wall Street Journal Editors,norml_remember_prohibition_

    The headline alone provides sufficient irony “Marijuana Use Rises Among Teens; Cigarettes Smoking Lowest Since ’75,” in that the long-stated goal of the federal government’s so-called anti-drug bureaucrats has been to reduce the use of cannabis consumption in America. Billions of taxpayer dollars and 20 million cannabis-related arrests later, the social data continues to consistently demonstrate the government achieving one stated goal–the reduction of tobacco use–but not significant reductions in cannabis use among teens?

    What is the lesson here?

    That with tobacco, the world’s most death-inducing and addictive drug, verifiable and credible health information (along with progressive, teen-deterring, but not black market-inviting taxes imposed by local and federal governments) have a better chance of achieving the federal government’s stated and laudable goal of reduced teen use–not criminal sanctions and prohibition laws.

    Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director NORML/NORML Foundation

    WSJ: Marijuana Use Rises Among Teens; Cigarette Smoking Lowest Since ’75

    By JENNIFER CORBETT DOOREN

    Marijuana use among teenagers increased this year after previous declines, while the use of other illicit drugs like cocaine mostly declined.

    According to an annual National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded survey of nearly 47,000 students, almost one-third of 12th-graders and more than one-quarter of 10th-graders reported using marijuana in 2009. Almost 12% of eighth-graders reported marijuana use, an increase from about 11% in 2008.

    The survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, asked teenagers to report on the use of smoking, alcohol use and drug use, including non-medical uses of prescription painkillers and over-the-counter cold and cough products.

    The report showed cigarette smoking was at the lowest point since the survey started in 1975, although the use of smokeless-tobacco products increased on some measures this year.

    Researchers say the percentage of students who reported ever trying cigarettes has fallen dramatically.

    Daily cigarette use by 12th-graders was 11.2%, a slight drop from 11.4% in 2008, while any use during the past 30 days was 20.1%, also a slight decline from 2008. Smokeless-tobacco use during the past 30 days in 2009 was reported by 8.4% of students in 12th grade, up from 6.5% in 2008.

    Researchers said one of the reasons smoking rates have declined is that the percentage of students who reported ever trying smoking has “fallen dramatically.” For example in 1996, 49% of eighth-graders reported trying cigarettes, compared with 20% this year.

    Alcohol use stayed about the same last year, with more than half of 10th-graders and about two-thirds of seniors reporting alcohol use in the past year.

    The survey showed past-year use of cocaine decreased to 3.4% from 4.4% in 2008 among 12th-graders, along with declines in the use of hallucinogens and methamphetamine.

    The use of over-the-counter cold and cough medicines to get high, however, edged up among all age groups, with 6% of 10th-graders reporting non-medical use of the products last year.

    The annual survey also found continuing high rates of prescription-drug abuse, with almost 10% of 12th-graders reporting non-medical use of the painkiller Vicodin last year, the same rate as 2008. Almost 5% of high-school seniors reported using OxyContin for a non-medical use in 2009, a slight uptick from 2008.

    Researchers said 66% of teens reported obtaining the prescription drugs from a friend or relative, while 19% said they received the drugs with a doctor’s prescription, and 8% said they bought the drugs from a dealer.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 10, 2009

    FYI: Feel free to also comment on this commentary (and digg it) at the Huffington Post here and at Alternet.org here.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has once again released their annual survey on “drug use and health” — you know, the one where representatives of the federal government go door-to-door and ask Americans if they are presently breaking state and federal law by using illicit drugs. The same survey where respondents have historically under reported their usage of alcohol and tobacco — these two legal substances — by as much as 30 to 50 percent, and arguably under report their use of illicit substances by an even greater margin. The same survey that — despite these inherent limitations — “is the primary source of statistical information on the use of illegal drugs by the U.S. population.” Yeah, that one.

    So what does the government’s latest round of ‘statistical (though highly questionable) information’ tell us? Nothing we didn’t already know.

    Despite 70+ years of criminal prohibition, marijuana still remains widely popular among Americans, with over 102 million Americans (41 percent of the U.S. population) having used it during their lifetimes, 26 million (10 percent) having used it in the past year, and over 15 million (6 percent) admitting that they use it regularly. (By contrast, fewer than 15 percent of adults have ever tried cocaine, the second most ‘popular’ illicit drug, and fewer than 2 percent have ever tried heroin — so much for that supposed ‘gateway effect.’) Predictably, all of the 2008 marijuana use figures are higher than those that were reported for the previous year — great work John Walters!

    Equally predictably, the government’s long-standing prohibition and anti-pot ‘scare’ campaigns have done little, if anything, to dissuade young people from trying it. According to the survey, 15 percent of those age 14 to 15 have tried pot (including 12 percent in the past year), as have 31 percent of those age 16 to 17 (a quarter of which have done so in the past year) — percentages that make marijuana virtually as popular as alcohol among these age groups. By age 20, 45 percent of adolescents have tried pot, and nearly a third of those age 18 to 20 have done so in the past year. And by age 25, 54 percent of the population has admittedly used marijuana.

    Question: Does anyone still believe that marijuana prohibition is working — or that all of these people deserve to be behind bars? (more…)

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