I attended the harmful effects of marijuana forum for community members on Nov. 6 at Canyon Crest Academy that was announced in this newspaper, “The Truth About Weed — What Every Parent Needs To Know” community seminar. About 200 parents, attended including about 20 teenage boys; I thought it interesting that there weren’t any daughters brought by their parents, just sons.
Not knowing what to expect I was very impressed with the presentations and information presented on how marijuana negatively affects the adolescent brain. The presenters provided a review of how marijuana use among teens is increasing, and its perception of harm is decreasing. We learned from the California Health Kids Survey that our local students are reporting obtaining marijuana is as easy or easier than getting alcohol. We were instructed on what students are doing to hide their marijuana use on campus and at home, new lingo, emerging trends, and just how easy it is get drugs on the internet. A real eye opener to me was the use of marijuana on campus is increasing, one reason being the use of electronic pipes that vaporize marijuana, making it harder to detect. Additionally, good documentation was given about the negative affects marijuana has on academics, driving, job training, and its gateway to abuse of other harmful and dangerous substances.
Dr. Mary Doyle, a UCSD neuroscientist, ended the night by explaining how the human brain continues to develop until our mid-20s. She described the three times in the developing child when the brain is especially vulnerable to damage, pre natal, 0-3 years old, and during adolescence. Dr. Doyle showed the links between the onset of schizophrenia and marijuana use at critical maturational junctures in adolescence, and much more.
The parents asked many questions; as someone who works in the public health field, I felt I wanted to add to the answers given regarding the data that alcohol use during adolescence increases the chance of alcohol addiction, which is true. The relationship between alcohol and marijuana use during adolescent and the college years is of great concern and receiving a great deal of research, with the speculation that marijuana use was replacing alcohol use.
As it turns out marijuana and alcohol use in young adults is co-occurring behavior not mutually exclusive, in other words, where there is increased marijuana use in college, researchers also find increased alcohol use. And both are contributing to what is euphemistically called “discontinuous” enrollment in college, with marijuana having a slightly higher culpability in this inference with schooling. Researchers have suggested the marijuana and alcohol are used at different times by college students, alcohol on weekends and marijuana during the school week and that this might contribute to marijuana’s role in the interruption in college progress.
I appreciated the forum; it was a great service to our community to help keep us all more informed so that we can keep our teens safe, healthy, and productive.