Elaine Meckler: Marijuana is destroying our youth | TheUnion.com

Elaine Meckler: Marijuana is destroying our youth

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. The term “illicit” is used because it is still considered a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government and is against the law to grow, distribute, smoke or ingest.

A Schedule 1 Controlled Substance is defined as a substance that has no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse which include heroin, LSD, marijuana, peyote, methamphetamine and ecstasy.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world without mind-altering or mind-numbing drugs? That’s probably not possible, but maybe we can work on greatly limiting them in our community. Drugs are readily available at our middle schools, high schools and colleges. If you have the cash you can get the stash.

Studies have now been conducted that show an adolescent’s developing brain may be particularly vulnerable to lasting damage from the drug. Susan Weiss, Ph.D., director of the division of extramural research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse says “There are a lot of open questions” about the long-term effects of marijuana, which may disrupt brain development.

A newly published study by the National Academy of Sciences shows that heavy marijuana users had different brain shapes and lower IQs than non-smokers, suggesting a potential danger to young people who abuse the drug said Francesca Filbey, an associate professor at the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas. She co-authored the study stating “the brain doesn’t reach maturity until age 25 or 30.”

I, for one, am not ready to give up on our youth. Since when has the legal age to purchase alcohol or cigarettes ever stopped anyone from using these items? Especially now, when everything is so readily available. I am willing to wager that you know someone or know of someone who is smoking marijuana. Have you noticed any change in that young person? If you haven’t yet, you will. It is more likely that this individual will not do well in school or will drop out all together. Don’t sit by and let that happen.

According to the American Psychological Association, marijuana shows considerable promise for treating medical conditions including pain, muscle spasms, seizure disorders and nausea from cancer chemotherapy. These benefits come from cannabidiol, a chemical component of the marijuana plant not thought to produce mind-altering effects.

As the APA states, what’s clear, however, is that marijuana’s signature high comes from a psychoactive component known as tetrahydrocannabinol. There is more and more evidence that THC is not risk-free. In the short term, marijuana use has been shown to impair functions such as attention, memory, learning and decision-making.

Those effects can last for days after the high wears off. Heavy marijuana use in adolescence or early adulthood has been associated with dismal outcomes including poor school performance, higher dropout rates, increased welfare dependence, greater unemployment and lower life satisfaction.

Thirty years ago, THC concentrations were typically well below 10 percent, and even below 5 percent. But a recent analysis of marijuana samples sold in Colorado found THC potency approaching 30 percent, according to results presented at the 2015 meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Using marijuana at an early age is linked to higher risk taking behavior such as immature sexual activity, which can result in unplanned pregnancy, an increased risk of driving while under the influence of marijuana and psychosis, depression or anxiety.

So, what can we do about this horrible plague taking hold of our young people? We need strong family, school and police involvement and we need it now. There should be a zero drug tolerance when it comes to our young people. There should be mandatory classes taught at every level starting with the very young to encourage them to stay away from drugs.

It is up to every one of us to ensure that our youth are safe from the ravages of this horrible disease. And make no mistake, it is a disease. It is addicting, debilitating and life threatening. We should not allow it to destroy our younger generation or our wonderful community.

If you do nothing else, please attend a meeting of the 16-member Nevada County Advisory Group from 2 to 5 p.m. on the second and/or fourth Tuesday of each month for the next few months at the Foothills Event Center. The discussion is on marijuana grows, manufacture, processing and sales.

Elaine Meckler lives in Grass Valley.

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