Marijuana is stronger, more dangerous than years ago

Published 7:44 am Monday, February 16, 2004

By Staff
This is the third installment in a six-part series on drug abuse, provided by the Escambia County Schools Youth Empowerment Program.
Marijuana is not the same drug that many parents remember from the 60s and 70s. Marijuana is much stronger and comes in many more varieties than were in use 20 years ago.
The level of THC in marijuana in the 60s and 70s was around two percent, whereas the drug today has an average level of THC between six and 13 percent. However, there are varieties of marijuana that contain up to 25 percent THC, which can cause hallucinations like LSD.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal substance by youth in our country. Marijuana use puts more youths into drug treatment than any other substance, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Many youths turn to marijuana to cope with the stress in their lives along with depression, social issues, family problems and school problems. However, using a substance to solve your problems is the first step to becoming addicted to that substance.
Marijuana is a mind altering drug made from the cannabis plant. Young people often believe that since the origin of the drug is a plant that its use is not harmful.
There are many plants like mistletoe which are poisonous when ingested although they grow naturally.
Marijuana is a mind- and mood-altering drug.
The effects of the drug in youth include lack of motivation, lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy, depression and angry outbursts.
Marijuana has many street names so that youth can hide their use of the drug. The street names change constantly and each area of the country has different terms.
Common street names for marijuana include bammer, blunt, boom, bud, duros, 420, ganja, hooch, loaf, mota, one-hitter, stack, weed and Mary Jane. Four-twenty is a common term used in Escambia County.
The term came from students up north who return home from school at approximately 4:20 in the afternoon. It became known by the youth as the time when they would smoke the plant.
SAMHSA, the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reports that students who use marijuana on a weekly basis are nine times more likely to experiment with other drugs and alcohol, six times more likely to run away from home, five times more likely to steal or participate in juvenile crime, four times more likely to engage in violence and three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than students who do not use.
Marijuana use also greatly impairs a student's ability to learn as it affects their short- and long-term memory. Many youths experience Amotivational Syndrome, a disorder that has been researched and related strictly to the use of marijuana.
Those with this syndrome have no desire to begin or complete tasks, fail to attend school or complete school assignments, fail to attend to family chores and at its worst, lack the motivation to bathe and groom themselves appropriately.
Marijuana is called a gateway drug because it is associated with increased experimentation with other substances. The 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse conducted by SAMHSA revealed that among 12 to 17 year olds, about four in 10 who smoked cigarettes also smoked marijuana in the past month.
The report also stated that youth who engaged in heavy drinking -- five or more drinks on the same occasion, five or more times per month -- also used marijuana in the past month.
The long-term effects of marijuana use are still being studied with the new higher levels of THC in the drug. Scientists have discovered that weekly use poses a great risk to young people because of the second growth spurt that happens in the brain during the early teen years.
Use of marijuana may prevent or damage this growth spurt causing permanent brain damage. Users of marijuana also experience chronic coughing, bronchitis and more frequent chest colds as smoking one marijuana cigarette is similar to smoking many nicotine cigarettes in the damage done to the lungs.
The higher levels of THC also mean that the drug is much more addictive both physically and psychologically than before.
For more information on drugs, a referral for drug abuse screening or testing or counseling intervention, please contact Sheri L. Cox, Youth Empowerment Coordinator, Escambia County Schools, 296-0633,