Every modern parent must consider that in their cyber realm, youth accessing and using drugs without direction of a physician may seem like such a normal thing to do – especially when responding to the amount of stress and peer pressure hyped in social media.
To that end, last Thursday evening a group of panelists assembled to advise a community forum on the risks of marijuana to youth, hosted by St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Rocklin, and co-sponsored by the Coalition for Placer Youth in Auburn. One of the main concerns of substance abuse prevention and recovery experts is that when there is a low perception of harm of drug use in our culture, it can leave a young brain and mind more vulnerable to risk of addiction.
Christine Ivazes is the CPY Director. “As a community we need to get educated about the nature of today’s marijuana and the real risks for youth,” she said. “Most people do not realize that the marijuana kids access is not what parents knew when they were growing up and we need to understand these risks so we can have good conversations with youth about their health.”
Marijuana is perceived as harmless so drug education for parents and youth is a critically important factor for maintaining open communication about what is happening in the lives of youth, and understanding the risks associated with use of marijuana during adolescence – a critical time of the development of the brain.
Accordingly, the following insights about the today’s marijuana were offered at this forum:
- Marijuana today is more potent than that of generations past, wherein the THC levels were well below 10 percent, while today’s marijuana presents THC levels as high as 30 percent. (THC is the psycho-active component that gives the high feeling.)
- By the same token, it is important to acknowledge that marijuana may be used for medicinal purposes, and the concerns associated with today’s marijuana is about the increased level of THC which can exposes greater risk of adverse reactions and addiction to youth.
- Regular use of marijuana can cause disruption to the development of the adolescent brain to make the “feel good” hormones in the brain’s reward system.
- Some individuals using marijuana have experienced a psychotic break.
- Addiction to marijuana is a very real and formidable psychological and behavioral problem which is difficult to overcome.
Jon Daily, CADCII, LCSW, the Clinical Director and founder of Recovery Happens, an adolescent and young adult drug treatment and intervention center with offices in Roseville, Davis and Fair Oaks, served as a panelist. “Parents and the community must realize that addicts will never hit bottom until their system of care hits bottom,” he said, referring to the opinions people have about certain drugs being more addictive or harmful than others.
Kathie Sinor is a health educator at Granite Bay High School who attended the event. She provides instruction to her students about the impact of drugs on their young brains. “Education is the key,” she said. “We need to make sure that parents and teens understand what brain science tells us about the neurological consequences of using drugs and alcohol on adolescent brains so they can make better informed decisions.”
The most important thing a parent can do with tech-savvy youth, who can google a lot of information about drugs, is to avoid fearfully demonizing the drug. For more guidance on having a conversation about drugs and alcohol and setting expectations with your teen go to Recovery Happens: Parent Resources and CPY ParentPledge.