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.
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.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to legalize marijuana by summer 2018. While marijuana has been directly linked to multiple suicides across the United States, the Canadian government refuses to recognize pot as anything but a harmless drug. In response to Trudeau’s legalization plans, Health Canada has unveiled a marijuana consumer fact sheet, warning Canadians about the adverse effects of marijuana use. With legalization on the horizon ClearTheAirNow.org partnered with RIWI to survey over 1,100 Canadians from May 2 to May 12 and gauge their awareness of marijuana’s dangerous health effects, as previously reported by Health Canada. Continue reading →
My name is Jacki Cosner and 27 months ago we lost our eldest daughter, Kayla Nicole (20), and her husband, Daniel Brian Amos (21), on Valentine’s Day. They had only been married 6 months and she posted that morning how excited she was that her “halfyearversary” would always be on this day of celebrating true love.
Dan worked at a local church as an Arts Worship Leader and had recently been ordained a minister. He played electric guitar in the church band and was living out a musical dream for his passion. Jesus Christ. Kayla recently had graduated from Liberty University with a BS in Business, Entrepreneurship. Her dream of running a coffee shop was coming to fruition thru the church as well. They were opening one in the church lobby to raise money for End Hunger, a local charity. She had been volunteering with them for some time. Dan and Kayla were rooted in their faith first and rooted in their love for Christ. That is what made them who they were and made their life extraordinary.
On February 14th, 2016 they had gone to a late lunch after church at a restaurant Dan had been wanting to try. After that they went to Kayla’s favorite shop at the mall and he bought her a beautiful red lace skirt in honor of the occasion. On the way home, not twenty minutes in, at 4:30pm, an oncoming car crossed the center line and hit them head on. The impact hard enough to lift the rear slightly causing the car behind them to go under and flip their car over. Dan passed at the scene and Kayla was life flighted to Shock Trauma. We were informed her injuries were not survivable. We kept her on life support knowing and watching as vitals slowed. At 7 a.m. on February 15, 2016, we gave her hand to Dan one last time. I’ve heard repeatedly over the past 2+ years how strong I am. My response is always the same, “I would be weak again in a heartbeat if it would mean they were still here.”
Though there are a lot of people that would probably not agree with me, I consider myself a mother who lost her children to drugs. Heroin and marijuana specifically. No, they did not use the drug and I have not gone thru the daily torment of watching them battle the addiction. However, had it not been for the decision to use this drug by another person, Kayla and Daniel would still be here. They would still be planning and living the future they only started together 6 months earlier. A life they lived with intention in everything they did.
My heart hurts for every mom watching a child suffer
In my life, I have had the trials of raising teenagers that are curious and have not always made the choice we would want. However, I have to say, we are blessed that that is all it came to be. A curiosity and lesson learned are lessons avoided. There are countless other parents who tragically cannot say the same. My heart hurts for every mom who has had to bear the burden of watching a child suffer. Its every parent’s worst fear to have their child make a horrible life altering decision that we know cannot end well. I say these things including the decisions to take that first pill, smoke that first cigarette or joint, shoot that first needle. We try so hard to teach them well and when these things come to light we wonder why and where did we go wrong? How did we fail them? The burden to keep our children safe and healthy becomes immeasurably harder and sometimes impossible.
I may not have been living it for years or dealt with it daily up to February 14,2016, but an all-night bender of a person who just wanted to get through the night, get to work, and then decided it was perfectly fine to get behind the wheel of a 5000 lb. weapon, took my daughter and son-in-law. She is here. And they are not. I fully support the idea that we must act on this war heavy and straight on. Mothers, fathers, children, sisters, brothers. All walks of life need help. We most certainly need to bring the awareness to the open. However, this is where I start to sway. I have a challenging time blaming biology or calling it a disease. I have a challenging time dismissing the whole “choice” factor. At some point a choice was made. We do not need to make those curiosities and choices easier for our young future to explore. This is how we eradicate a disease. The thought that we have started legalizing marijuana terrifies me. Just because we tell them to stay home does not guarantee anything. What next? Where will this lead?
Saying no can save the life of someone else
I feel there is a need for another perspective on the whole issue. Not one that undermines the work already done, but one that can hopefully enhance the cause and get the word to not just the families looking in the face of the addicted member, but to all the ones out there considering it. They need to learn how an innocent person can suddenly and tragically be thrown into this world in a matter of seconds. They need to understand that saying “NO” can not only save their life, but could be saving the lives of someone else. Maybe even their friend or family.
I would not wish this life on anyone–my life of grief or the driver’s life, living with that night. But I also cannot sit back and not try to help someone out there see that no one is beyond the unthinkable. No one is invincible. The driver thought they were and now is sitting wondering where their life is going to lead. Dan and Kayla Amos knew they were not invincible, but at least they knew where they were going and when they opened their eyes above, they were HOME.