Marijuana addiction in Collier County and Naples, Florida, is on the rise. Marijuana use continues to increase throughout the country, as well. My observation is that, in developing countries, anxiety levels continue to rise as competing demands dominate our lives. Easy drugs, such as marijuana and alcohol, have become preferred substances to provide the illusion of relief. Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States, especially as it becomes decriminalized and thus easier to obtain. It has some medicinal benefits to the sick and dying, which has created an incentive to produce high-grade oral marijuana. One outcome is to alleviate appetite loss in severely physically wasted patients who are suffering from the side effects of cancer treatments. However, the long term effects of marijuana are what is most worrisome.
Marijuana’s damage to short-term memory seems to occur because THC alters the way in which information is processed by the hippocampus, a brain area responsible for memory formation. In one study, researchers compared marijuana smoking and nonsmoking 12th-graders’ scores on standardized tests of verbal and mathematical skills. Although all of the students had scored equally well in 4th grade, those who were heavy marijuana smokers, i.e., those who used marijuana seven or more times per week, scored significantly lower in 12th grade than nonsmokers. Another study of 129 college students found that, among heavy users of marijuana, critical skills related to attention, memory, and learning were significantly impaired, even after they had not used the drug for at least 24 hours.
Here are more worrisome statistics:
- In 2000, over 3 million adolescents (aged 12 to 17) used marijuana at least once during the previous year.
- White adolescents were more likely to use marijuana than Hispanic, black, or Asian adolescents.
- Adolescents, with an average grade of D or below, were more than four times as likely to have used marijuana in the past year as adolescents who reported an average grade of A.
- Based on SAMHSA’s 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.8% (1.7 million) adolescents, aged 12 to 17, used marijuana in the past month and 3.5% (891,000) smoked “blunts” (cigars with marijuana in them) in the past month. (Marijuana blunts are cigars with tobacco replaced with marijuana. Blunt use is defined as smoking part or all of a cigar with marijuana in it.)
- In 2005, about half (52%) of the adolescents, who used marijuana in the previous month, counted blunts among their marijuana use. Males were more likely than females to have smoked blunts (55.6% vs. 47.5%).
- The use of blunts occurred at higher rates in the Northeast (62.5%) and the South (54.4%) than in the Midwest (48.3%) and West (43.1%) among adolescents’ marijuana use within the previous month.
- Based on SAMHSA’s 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the percentages of adolescents engaging in delinquent behaviors rose with increasing frequency of marijuana use.
- In 2002, more than 5 million adolescents engaged in serious fighting at school or work, and almost 4 million took part in a group-against-group fight in the past year.
- Over 40% of those who used marijuana at least 300 days in the past year reported that they also took part in serious fighting at school or work (42%) or a group-against-group fight (41%) in the past year.
- Over half (57%) of those who used marijuana 300 or more days in the past year reported that they also sold illegal drugs.
Why do we worry about marijuana use among adolescents?
- Children with initial marijuana use before age 15 were an estimated 8.3 times more likely than those with initial use after age 20, to be dependent on at least one illicit drug.
- Adolescents with initial marijuana use between the ages of 15 and 20 were about three more likely than those with initial use after age 20, to be dependent on at least one illicit drug.
- Marijuana is considered an entry drug to harder drugs such as cocaine, crack, meth, and heroin.
If you have concerns about marijuana use, please make an appointment with Leonard Lado, MD, in Naples, Florida.