Non-Medical Marijuana III: Rite of Passage or Russian Roulette? | CASAColumbia

Non-Medical Marijuana III: Rite of Passage or Russian Roulette?

Non-Medical Marijuana III: Rite of Passage or Russian Roulette?

Published: June 2008

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Background

This is the third in a series of CASAColumbia papers exploring marijuana and its consequences. This report explores research on the dangers of non-medical marijuana use and cautions against complacency about use of the drug. The report also details the risks to teens of marijuana use and explores marijuana as a gateway drug.

Methods

This CASAColumbia white paper involved a comprehensive review and synthesis of information from relevant publications and national data sets related to the topic.

Results

Despite reported declines in teen marijuana use, in 2007, almost 11 million teens reported having used marijuana. For those using the drug, four alarming trends should be of concern to parents and teens:

  • From 1992 to 2006
    • A 175% jump in the potency of marijuana (3.5% to 8.8% THC concentration in seized samples)
    • A 492% increase in the proportion of teen treatment admissions with a clinical diagnosis of marijuana abuse or dependence, compared with a 54% decline for all other addictive substances
    • A 188% increase in the proportion of teen treatment admissions for marijuana as the primary drug of abuse, compared with a 54% decline for all other addictive substances
  • From 1995 to 2002
    • A 136% increase in the proportion of emergency department findings of marijuana as a major substance of abuse among teens, more than 5 times the increase in such findings for all other addictive substances

Compared to lows in 1992, the report found that in 2007, the proportion of teens that had used the drug was 27% higher among 8th graders, 45% higher among 10th graders and 28% higher among 12th graders. 

This white paper underscores the urgency of addressing the dangers associated with non-medical marijuana use, particularly for our children and teens. Current evidence is more than sufficient to demonstrate that marijuana use is an increasingly dangerous game of Russian roulette.

Recommendations

Parents, school administrators, teachers, coaches, counselors, doctors, clergy, law enforcement and all others concerned with the health and welfare of our youth are urged to take immediate action to prevent marijuana use among our children and teens. To educate the country about the dangers of teen marijuana use, the national government and the public health community are advised to mount a major public education campaign.

A Note on the Language
In 2012, CASAColumbia stopped using words like “drug abuse”/“drug abuser” because the terms are imprecise and have negative connotations. Instead, we now distinguish between “addiction” (clinical criteria for the disease) and “risky use” (use of addictive substances in ways that increase the risk of harm but do not meet criteria for addiction). Some reports and other publications published prior to 2012 still contain this language.

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