Reducing Future Rates of Adult Addiction Must Begin with Youth Prevention
The United States is confronting a public health crisis of rising adult drug addiction, most visibly documented by an unprecedented number of opioid overdose deaths.1 Most of these overdose deaths are not from the use of a single substance – opioids – but rather are underreported polysubstance deaths.2This is happening in the context of a swelling national interest in legalizing marijuana use for recreational and/or medical use.As these two epic drug policy developments roil the nation, there is an opportunity to embrace a powerful initiative.Ninety percent of all adult substance use disorders trace back to origins in adolescence.3 4New prevention efforts are needed that inform young people, the age group most at-risk for the onset of substance use problems, of the dangerous minefield of substance use that could have a profound negative impact on their future plans and dreams.
Is the Marihuana (Hemp) Movement a drug initiated, drug-driven movement?
By Jeanette McDougal A report by Congress’s research arm concluded that the legalize marihuana (Hemp) movement “has largely been spurred by… Jack Herer [high-profile marijuana advocate], who released an updated version of his book, Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy: The Emperor Wears No Clothes, in 1990.” [Jean M. Rawson, CRS Report 92-510, “Growing Marihuana (Hemp) for Fiber: Pros and Cons.”]
High Times, a militantly pro-drug magazine, agrees. The April 1995 issue says, “Jack Herer’s book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, has been instrumental in reviving interest in hemp and has helped create the grass-roots movement for marijuana reform,” [i.e., legalization]. Continue reading →
Twins who use cannabis by age 17 are 2.1 to 5.2 times more likely to develop addiction issues. An Australian twins study determined this likelihood by comparing twins who used pot to the co-twins who hadn’t used marijuana.
Although not a gateway for everyone, cannabis often is a gateway for those who become addicted and die. Study after study has shown a relationship between the use of marijuana and other psychoactive and addictive substances. Yet marijuana lobbyists twist the issue and say it’s not a gateway drug.
Marijuana is a major cause of drug-related medical and psychiatric emergency room episodes. Liberalizing marijuana laws escalates this problem. Some go to the hospital for marijuana-induced psychosis while others seek medical help for vomiting.
The Australian Twins Study
The January 22/29, 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the outcome of a well-controlled study designed to determine whether genetic predisposition or environmental factors determine if an underage cannabis user will progress to other drugs. The findings from this research led to “Escalation of Drug Use in Early-Onset Cannabis Users vs. Co-Twin Control,” by LynskyM, HeathA and BucholzK.
The study found that a twin who had used cannabis by age 17 was significantly more likely to use other drugs. The same twins were more likely to become drug and alcohol dependent, compared with their co-twin who had not used marijuana. And there was very little difference whether the twins were fraternal or identical.
In other words, environmental influences can trump genetic predisposition for those who progress from cannabis use to the use of other psychoactive and addictive substances. For the sake of this study, “environmental factors” were “associations and circumstances” leading to this progression.
According to the authors, “In particular, early access to and use of cannabis may reduce perceived barriers against the use of other illegal drugs and provide access to these drugs.”
The study predicted what has happened in the USA and Canada. For example, a large group of young people who died of overdoses in Massachusetts began their drug use with marijuana. Politicians continue to consider the overdose problem only an issue with opioids rather than a poly-drug addiction. People continue to suggest that marijuana will substitute for opioid pain medications, despite the fact that most youth who overdose begin with pot.
Exposure to One Class of Drugs increases consumption of other drugs
The same issue of JAMA carried an editorial entitled “Does Marijuana Use Cause the Use of Other Drugs?” The author referenced research which found cross-sensitization between repeated exposure to THC (The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) and opiates. “With cross-sensitization, exposure to one class of drug increases consumption of other drug classes, consistent with the existence of a gateway effect.”
The editorial stated, “Prevention efforts will presumably affect the underlying risk and protective factors related to the onset of marijuana use, whether or not these factors are shared with the onset of the use of other illicit drugs. For youths who have already used marijuana, the issue is: can and should intervention programs be developed to target this group at very high risk for progressing to other substances? It appears so.”
Parents, please don’t take early teen marijuana use lightly. It frequently leads to significant poly-drug abuse problems. Sometimes the problem stops at marijuana addiction. Addiction to pot occurs in 1 in 6 users who begin between ages 12 and 17. Until we stop minimizing the harm of early pot use, we won’t get the drug epidemic under control.
Doctors tell women not to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol when pregnant, so why would anyone think it’s ok to smoke pot? It turns out that 69% of marijuana dispensaries in Colorado were giving this bad advice.
Pregnant women need to be educated, but not shamed. Many of these women are victims of bad information and it’s not their fault. Our website provides several resources for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Let’s not exaggerate the possible dangers, but women need to know they risk certain heart defects, cancers in their babies.
We live in a time period in which some people trust ganjapreneurs, but don’t trust doctors. Marijuana dispensaries do not require scientific or medical training to give out medical advice. They require that workers are 21 years or older, but nothing else. Doctors, on the other hand, have years of intense education and professional organizations back up their claims. Both groups are out to make money, but which group has the most quacks?
“The marijuana industry will stop at nothing to make a buck,” said Justin Luke Riley, founder of the MAC. “Going against all available science, the industry is now recommending pot for pregnant women. They must be held accountable for their actions and not simply be given a slap on the wrist. They are actively putting their profits ahead of the healthy development of future Coloradans.”