Air Date: 08/11/10 Dr. Rebecca Jankovich, PhD can be reached at 322-1839.8-12-10 Teens and Marijuana #2 Too many of our teenagers are smoking marijuana; the National Institute of Drug Addiction thinks 48% of teens have tried marijuana, that's almost half, and 21% have used in the past 30 days. Some are smoking dope daily and some are just using on weekends. They're smoking at the public schools, the private schools and the religious schools I know because kids tell me what they do and what they see. Think again if you believe your child isn't using because she doesn't have any money; other kids supply them and lack of funds doesn't mean no access to dope. Don't feel reassured when you talk with your teen about drugs and they tell you they haven't experimented. When parents confront their teens about whether they're smoking, the kids deny it; if parents find drug paraphernalia in their child's room, backpack,or car, the teen says it's not theirs, they're just holding it for a friend or someone must have left it. And when you finally drug test them and discover they've been using, they argue that smoking marijuana is really less harmful than drinking. Arm yourself with the facts. Go on the website for the National Institute of Drug Addiction, look up "my facts for teens" and read about marijuana; download it for your teen. Do the same with the website, "drugtestyourteen" in case your teen doesn't believe anything put out by the government. Kids believe they're more creative when they're high, more calm, happier, even better athletes; these are misperceptions caused by the drug. The facts are that marijuana is harmful and it is worse than drinking because it impairs brain functioning with heavy use as well as depleting motivation and interest in doing anything besides getting high. Smoking marijuana causes problems with memory and learning. Short term memory is impaired with heavy use in the same ways the brain changes with abuse of cocaine, heroin or alcohol. Marijuana interferes with good problem solving and the ability to think clearly; it seriously impairs decision making and judgment causing teens to make more mistakes in their choices, choices effecting not only conduct and school performance, but also, safety. When smoking, you have less motor control or coordination, alertness and concentration is diminished, ability to react quickly is slowed down; the effects on driving are the same as being drunk. It's dangerous to be high and drive.There are health risks from marijuana. Smoking dope increases heart rate, a dangerous situation if the smoker has any cardiac issues. It causes problems with breathing and airway functioning with increased symptoms of coughing and wheezing; a dangerous situation if the smoker has allergies or asthma. Regular dope smoking increases the risks of getting colds, lung infections and pneumonia. Smoking marijuana impairs the T cells in the immune system for the lungs. And, it can cause some cancers. If your child smokes the equivalent of 5 joints a day, that's the same as smoking a package of cigarettes daily. The kids tell one another there's no risk to smoking marijuana; they argue that it's used for medical treatment so how bad can it be? One teen in my office asked his mother if she wouldn't just get him a medical prescription to smoke marijuana because it calmed him down. Marijuana can be prescribed for medical purposes but only in dire circumstances like easing the nausea that comes with chemotherapy, or combating loss of appetite from fighting cancer and terminal diseases. You can't get it legally because you like the way it calms you down, but kids don't understand this because their knowledge base comes from other kids, not real life or research. Kids get mixed up between California laws and Nevada laws; in California the legal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana are minor, but in Nevada it's a huge legal problem to have even small amounts of marijuana.One of the scariest myths kids hold about marijuana is that it's not addictive. With heavy usage there is tolerance, needing more and more to get the same effect, and tolerance is a symptom of addiction. But, technically, it's not physically addictive because when usage is stopped, there are no physical symptoms of withdrawal. However, marijuana is psychologically addictive; after smoking daily over many months, kids can't stop thinking about getting their next hit; they can't stop the urges to smoke and have trouble resisting them even though their smoking has caused terrible disruption in their school work, their recreational activities and their relationships with their family. Regardless of whether you suspect your teen is using dope, teach them the real facts about marijuana. Arm them with information so they can make better decisions about using dope. Make sure you're informed so you can persuade your teen their street knowledge that marijuana is safe is not true.