HUGE INCREASE IN EMERGENCY ROOM ADMISSIONS AMONG 12 TO 17 YEAR OLDS WHERE MARIJUANA IS IMPLICATED
New York, NY – April 20, 2004 – The proportion of children and teenagers in treatment for marijuana dependence and abuse jumped 142 percent since 1992, according to a new CASA white paper, Non-Medical Marijuana II: Rite Of Passage Or Russian Roulette?, released today by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. Children and teens are three times likelier to be in treatment for marijuana than for alcohol, and six times likelier to be in treatment for marijuana than for all other illegal drugs combined.
The CASA report also found that emergency department mentions of the drug among 12- to 17-year olds jumped 48 percent since 1999. Especially troubling is the possibility that this rise in teen emergency department mentions is related to the increased potency of the drug.
John P. Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) said, “The CASA white paper reinforces the fact that today’s marijuana is very different from what was available in the 1970’s and 1980’s, in terms of its potency and addictive potential. Thanks to research such as this, we know more than we ever have about the adverse health impacts of using the drug, particularly for our youth. Marijuana poses a significant danger to young bodies and minds, and should be a matter of serious concern for American parents.”
“The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana is a dangerous drug,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA’s chairman and president and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. “Parents should recognize--and help their children understand--that playing with marijuana is like playing with fire. More kids are in treatment for marijuana dependence and abuse than ever before, and marijuana is a culprit in an increasing proportion of emergency room visits. Moreover, CASA’s latest analysis provides increasing evidence that marijuana is a gateway to other drug use. The more researchers study the drug and the consequences of its use, the clearer it becomes that teens who smoke pot are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette, not engaging in a harmless rite of passage.”
For this study, CASA conducted a special analysis of data from the 2001 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 11,000 ninth through twelfth graders, and found that among teens with no other problem behaviors, those who used marijuana at least once in the past 30 days are 13 times likelier than those who have not to use another drug like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, LSD or Ecstasy, and almost 26 times likelier than those teens who have never used marijuana to use another drug like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, LSD or Ecstasy.
Other notable findings include:
- Next to alcohol and tobacco, marijuana is the drug of choice for American teens, and it is by far the most widely used illicit drug.
- About six times as many teens have tried marijuana as have tried Ecstasy or cocaine.
- Among youths aged 12 to 17 who have ever tried marijuana, the mean age of initiation is 13 and a half. The mean age of initiation among adults aged 18 to 25 who have ever tried marijuana is 16.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA's missions are to: inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace shame and despair with hope.
With a staff of 74 professionals, CASA has conducted demonstration projects in 82 sites in 40 cities and 20 states focused on children, families and schools, and has been testing the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment, monitoring 15,000 individuals in more than 200 programs and five drug courts in 26 states. CASA is the creator of the nationwide Family Day initiative—the fourth Monday in September—that promotes parental engagement as a simple and effective way to reduce children’s risk of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs.
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