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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Teenagers, Drug Abuse, Marijuana

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 22nd 2013

Teenagers, Drug Abuse, MarijuanaAccording to a NIDA survey, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, teenage us of cigarettes, most illicit drugs and alcohol were in decline during 2012. Even "bath salts," a stimulant category of drugs, was used by only 1.3% of High School seniors nationally. However, of great concern to the addiction and mental health community is that marijuana use is up. According to NIDA, 41.7% of 8th graders reported occasionally using marijuana. Of these most said they do not believe it's a harmful drug. Among sophomores and seniors 26.8% viewed occasional use of marijuana as risky. What is worrisome about these numbers is that accumulating research is showing how cannabis use can cause serious harm. What are some of the findings?

One large study showed that regular cannabis use that begins during the teen years continues into adulthood and is associated with decreased IQ resulting in the loss of 8 IQ points by age 38. This is not surprising considering the fact that the adolescent brain is continuing to grow and develop. In addition, studies show that regular use and abuse in marijuana is associated with mental illness. While no causal effect has been found, there is a strong correlation between chronic use and the first onset of mental illess, particularly schizophrenia.

The fact that abuse of most illicit drugs among adolescents is down does not mean that the problem is solved. For instance, 7.5% of twelfth graders abuse Vicodin and Oxycontin, both highly addictive and dangerous when abused for non medical reasons. High School seniors also reported the use of non prescription amphetamines and 7.6% abused Adderal and Ritalin, the ADHD stimulant drugs.

There is no question that adolescence can be a very difficult time for many kids. In addition to the pressures to use drugs from other youngsters both in their neighborhoods and in school, all kinds of home problems contribute to their drug abuse. Chronic parental conflict, domestic violence, parental drug abuse, the lack of proper supervision of kids at home because both parents are working and the pressures from a bad economy that increases anxiety and depression for parents, are all factors that lead to teen drug abuse.

Despite all of these pressures, parents must look for the signs and symptoms that their kids may be abusing drugs. Changes in appearance and behavior far from the norm for the children, withdrawing from family interaction, chronic behavior problems at school that never existed before and excitability, such as being quick to anger, are all symptoms. In reality, any cluster of behaviors that are markedly different for that child might indicate a problem. That problem can also be in the form of depression or both.

It is well known that parents must keep their medicine cabinets locked. Medical Doctors do prescribe pain medications for post surgical recovery at home and for other painful procedures. Too many people are in the habit of keeping those bottles of pain killers (and other medications) long after they are no longer needed. It becomes too easy for children to gain access to those drugs and either use them, sell them at school or do both.

To come back to the main theme of this blog, it is time for people to recognize, and help their kids recognize, that marijuana is not harmless, especially for youngsters whose brains and nervous systems are continuing to develop.

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Wow. - Jonathan - May 28th 2013

Well written, but horrible biased.

Marijuana is a healing herb. Not a dangerous drug. And does not harm a developing brain. Research before you post lies.

Sadly... - burnsjohn007 - May 28th 2013

Great post! The effects of Marijuana are being largely discounted by the general populace. Sadly, they seem to think that pot is not much of a drug. 

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