Tuesday, August 28, 2012

National study: teens know where to get marijuana but use alcohol at higher rates

Results from the annual survey on teen substance abuse conducted by CASA Columbia provide an interesting look at youth access to and use of marijuana.  

Marijuana is the primary drug sold by students.  According to this national survey, 44% of high school students know of a student who sells drugs.  Overwhelmingly, the drug being sold by fellow students is marijuana.  

Though marijuana is sold by peers, alcohol is used more. What's interesting is that of the students who can identify a classmate who sells drugs, 55% use alcohol and 35% use marijuana.  

In schools where drugs are easy to get, alcohol is the drug of choice.  Of students who report that drugs are used, kept, or sold on school grounds (drug-infected schools), 40% report using alcohol and 24% use marijuana.

Legal drugs are easier to get than illegal drugs.  Students in "drug-infected schools" report that within an hour they can get alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs more easily than marijuana.

Previous studies have indicated that the majority of teenagers who do not use marijuana report that they don't because it is illegal.  (Johnston, L. D., et al,. Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 2010. Volume I: Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New guide available about mobilizing communities

People Power: Mobilizing Communities for Policy Change is a new, free publication from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA).  This publication provides an overview of the steps associated with engaging in community mobilizing to implement environmental strategies with a particular emphasis on adopting alcohol, tobacco, and drug (ATD) policies at the community level.

Why a guide about community mobilization and policy change?  The guide starts by explaining: What can communities do when faced with issues such as underage drinking, drinking and driving, misuse of prescription drugs, proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries and other similar concerns?  As a result of the growing body of research demonstrating the effectiveness of population level interventions, also called environmental strategies, funders in the ATD field are increasingly looking to community coalitions to adopt these strategies as a central part of their work.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Alcohol ads violate industry standards and target teens

Alcohol ads that violate industry guidelines are more likely to appear in magazines popular with teen readers, a new study finds. Ads violate industry guidelines if they appear to target a primarily underage audience, highlight the high alcohol content of a product, or portray drinking in conjunction with activities that require a high degree of alertness or coordination, such as swimming.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied 1,261 ads for alcopops, beer, spirits or wine that appeared more than 2,500 times in 11 magazines that are popular among teens. The ads were rated according to a number of factors, such as whether they portrayed over-consumption of alcohol, addiction content, sex-related content, or injury content.

“The finding that violations of the alcohol industry’s advertising standards were most common in magazines with the most youthful audiences tells us self-regulated voluntary codes are failing,” said study co-author David Jernigan, PhD. “It’s time to seriously consider stronger limits on youth exposure to alcohol advertising.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Minimum legal drinking age effective in preventing problems associated with underage drinking

“The National Uniform Drinking Act Age 21 has been a balanced, effective, and popular tool in helping to combat the many problems associated with underage drinking—for students or nonstudents alike” is the conclusion of a commentary in the July 2012 issue of the journal  Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.   “Research shows when the drinking age is 21, those younger than 21 drink less and continue to drink less through their early 20s.”  The authors also note substantial, well-documented declines in alcohol-involved youth highway fatalities, homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries associated with the age 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age Laws (MLDA).  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Child & Adolescent Psychiatry group concerned about marijuana policy

While the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry's recent statement is about medical marijuana, not marijuana legalization, some of the information it contains can inform the legalization debate.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) is concerned about the negative impact of medical marijuana on youth.  Adolescents are especially vulnerable to the many adverse developmental, cognitive, medical, psychiatric, and addictive effects of marijuana.  Of particular concern to our field, adolescent marijuana users are more likely than adult users to develop marijuana dependence, and their heavy use is associated with increased incidence and worsened course of psychotic, mood, and anxiety disorders.  Furthermore, marijuana's deleterious effects on cognition and brain development during adolescence may have lasting implications.

The "medicalization" of smoked marijuana has distorted the perception of the known risks and purported benefits of this drug. Since certain states began permitting dispensing of medical marijuana, adolescents' perceptions of the harmful effects of marijuana have decreased and marijuana use has increased significantly.  There is also emerging evidence that adolescents are accessing medical marijuana for recreational use.  Therefore AACAP urges more scientific evaluation and a risk:benefit analysis by interdisciplinary experts to determine whether there is any medical indication for marijuana dispensing given the potential harm to adolescents.

In summary:
  • Adolescents are especially vulnerable to adverse consequences of marijuana use.
  • Medical marijuana dispensing is associated with reduced perception of marijuana-related risks and increased rates of marijuana use among adolescents.
  • AACAP thus opposes medical marijuana dispensing to adolescents. 

Adolescent marijuana use is harmful and any proposed law that would make marijuana more acceptable to use and easier to get needs to be scrutinized to make sure it won't negatively affect teenagers.  Future legislation regarding medical marijuana in our state should include tighter regulations to ensure Washington teenagers are not accessing medical marijuana for recreational purposes.