MANSFIELD — The months of June and July are peak times for first-time youth substance use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana, according to The National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The Richland County Youth Substance Use Coalition wants young people to avoid substance use this summer in order to have healthy, strong futures.
Marijuana is a substance that can negatively affect a young person’s future job prospects and income, school performance, and physical and mental health. The coalition is providing strategies for community members, parents and teens to work together to make informed decisions.
Community members and parents can help prevent teen substance use through individual mentoring as well as supporting policies and programs. Conversations should happen early and often. Have many short talks, instead of one large talk.
Parents and guardians should express disapproval and set clear expectations against their child using substances because they want the best for their future. Staying silent could send the wrong message that there is no harm in using substances.
Parents and teens should establish a code word when they need to be picked up to avoid a potentially harmful situation.
Parents can coach their teens to avoid the pressures of using marijuana by encouraging them to:
- Steer clear of areas where users gather.
- Use an established code word when they need a ride.
- Make an excuse.
- Offer a safer/healthier alternative.
- Simply leave the situation.
- Reverse the pressure. “If you’re my friend, why are you asking me to do this?”
It’s important to establish substance use prevention strategies for adolescents because marijuana negatively affects parts of the brain that are involved in learning and memory as well as motor skills important for driving and playing sports. In the short-term, the substance can cause changes in mood, difficulty solving problems and impaired memory.
Long-term effects include addiction, antisocial behavior and poor health. 1 in 6 people who start using marijuana before the age of 18 can become addicted according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
On the contrary, teens that don’t use marjuana are more likely to achieve educational goals, earn a higher income and maintain stronger relationships.
“I don’t use or smoke marijuana because I don’t want to damage my future self or the life I have ahead of me,” said Lina Wandzel, The Ohio State University at Mansfield Sophomore.
Adding substances when struggling with mental health makes anxiety and depression worse. Marijuana is associated with higher rates of suicidal thoughts, especially among youth according to SAMHSA.
Higher potency marijuana has a larger effect on the brain, making marijuana use disorder more likely. THC (the psychoactive chemical in marijuana) potency has increased from 3-4% in the 1990s to 14% on average today. Some strains are 30%. Concentrates can be much higher, over 90%. Drivers with THC in their blood are:
- 2x more likely to have a fatal crash.
- 3 to 7x more likely to be responsible for a driving incident.
When it comes to marijuana, there are differences between smoking, vaping and consuming edibles.
Smoking irritates a person’s lungs. Breathing in the smoke can lead to daily cough, phlegm, and more frequent lung illness/infections. Effects of THC begin almost immediately.
There is a misconception that vaping marijuana is safe. This is NOT true. A person is still inhaling THC + countless other harmful toxic chemicals. Vaping can deliver very high concentrations of THC. Vaping also irritates the lungs like smoking.
Edibles can take minutes to hours to feel the effects. The effects last much longer than smoking/vaping. People often consume more edibles, thinking they are not working and then can experience very uncomfortable symptoms including confusion, anxiety, and paranoia. Edibles look harmless but can have extremely high doses.
Review these reputable sources for more information:
- Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention (CDC)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
RCYSUC was formed after receiving Drug-Free Communities funding in October of 2019. Community partners agreed more needed to be done to address youth substance use. RCYSUC is working to reduce youth substance use, change the local environment, and promote healthy activities. Learn more.