, Gloucester, MA


December 5, 2012

Letter: Talk to your kids about marijuana

To the editor:

The Healthy Gloucester Collaborative wants to help adults support youth in making healthy choices and send a clear message that substance use impacts their health and can disrupt their future.

Teen marijuana use nationwide is at a 30-year high, with 1 in 10 U.S teens reporting heavy marijuana use.

“Marijuana has become increasingly powerful in the past 20 years… marijuana is not a “harmless gateway drug, marijuana is a drug … period,” according to the student support specialist at North Shore Recovery High School.

In September, Duke University reported teens with marijuana dependency who continued using into adulthood had cognitive decline of about 8 IQ points. They noted those who started using marijuana as adults did not experience a drop in IQ. That’s because teenage brains are different.

Brain development, once thought to end in early adolescence, is now confirmed to continue into early adulthood. Rapid brain growth, or ‘blossoming”, occurs between ages of 10-12.

“THC,” the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, acts on the part of the brain that impacts memory and learning. Regular teen marijuana use affects these areas disrupting healthy development of neural pathways.

There are a number of myths and facts to address:

Myth: “Marijuana … everyone is doing it.”

Fact: According to a 2011 Gloucester student health survey, 34% of Gloucester High School teens report “current” marijuana use within 30 days of the survey. The Massachusetts average is 28 percent. It’s important to note that 66 percent reported no current use.

Fact: Gloucester teens report “someone living in their household who uses marijuana” has increased 22-25 percent from 2007-11.

Myth: “Marijuana isn’t so bad, the law says it’s OK to have up to an ounce ... and no real consequences if I have more.”

Perception of Harm: The lower the “perception of harm”, the higher the use. Youth “perception of marijuana harm” fell 77 percent to 46 percent nationwide from 2007-11..

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