Educator Tim Ryan, a senior prevention specialist with FCD Educational Services says that kids are “Growing up in a generation where marijuana used to be bad, and maybe now it’s not bad. Their parents are telling them not to do it, but they may be supporting legalization of it at the same time.”

Tara Parker-Pope who writes the Well Column for the New York Times suggests in a new article that these are confusing times for middle and high school students. The following is a portion of her article…..

Antidrug advocates say efforts to legalize marijuana have created new challenges as they work to educate teenagers and their parents about the unique risks that alcohol, marijuana and other drugs pose to the developing teenage brain.

These educators say their goal is not to vilify marijuana or take a stand on legalization; instead, they say their role is to convince young people and their parents that the use of drugs is not just a moral or legal issue, but a significant health issue.

“The health risks are real,” said Steve Pasierb, the chief executive of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Every passing year, science unearths more health risks about why any form of substance use is unhealthy for young people.”

Even in the states where marijuana is legal, it remains, like alcohol, off-limits to anyone younger than 21. But the reality is that once a product becomes legal, it becomes much easier for underage users to obtain it.

The goal of parents should not be to prevent their kids from ever trying marijuana. Instead, the focus should be on practical reasons to delay the use of any mind-altering substance, including alcohol, until they are older.

The reason is that young brains continue to develop until the early 20s, and young people who start using alcohol and marijuana in their teens are far more vulnerable to long-term substance-abuse problems.

The brain is still wiring itself during adolescence, and marijuana – or any drug use – during this period essentially trains the reward system to embrace a mind-altering chemical.

Because early exposure to marijuana can change the trajectory of brain development, even a few years of delaying use in the teen years is better. Research shows that young adults who smoked pot regularly before the age of 16 performed significantly worse on cognitive function tests than those who started smoking in their later teen years.

“Legalization is going to make the work we do even more relevant,” Mr. Pasierb said. “It’s part of the changing drug landscape.”   8/18/14


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