Marijuana vs Alcohol: What to say to your Teens

Marijuana vs. Alcohol: What to Say to Your Teen When it comes to talking to your teen about marijuana (and alcohol), it’s not always easy to know what to say.

While there is no exact “script” for talking with your teen about marijuana, our new Marijuana Talk Kit explores common teen questions and arguments – and offers tips for what you can say in response.

For example, what should you say if your teen asked you, “Would you rather I drink alcohol? Weed is so much safer.”

First, instead of getting rattled by your teen’s question, try posing a question back. (This acts as a buffer while you think about your answer.) Try something like: “What is going on in your life that makes you feel like you want to do either?”

Your teen may likely mumble back, “Nothing” (or another one-word answer), but keep in mind that even the word “nothing” is an opportunity to lead to another supportive statement from you.

You can then try, “I’m glad to hear there isn’t anything going on in your life that makes you want to drink or smoke.”

Lastly, it’s a good idea to say something along these lines: “Honestly, I don’t want you to be doing anything that can harm you — whether that’s smoking pot, cigarettes, drinking or behaving recklessly. I’m interested in knowing why you think weed is safer than alcohol.”

This type of sentiment reminds your teen that you care deeply about his health and well-being, and expresses genuine curiosity about his thought process, is going to help him open up.

And that’s what it’s all about. Engaging your teen so you can have ongoing, open and positive conversations. That’s how you’ll better understand the pressures he or she may be facing. And that’s how you can express your concern and support and love. And while your teen may not admit it, deep down that’s something all teenagers want.

Learn more about what to say to your teen about marijuana. Download your free Marijuana Talk Kit

Drug Guide for Parents now Available as a mobile app

The Drug Guide for Parents is now available as a mobile app for Android and iPhones. This guide provides information on drugs most commonly abused by teens and includes photos, slang terms, and short- and long-term effects. It features quick links to connect to a parent support specialist through the Helpline, and other valuable resources to prevent teen drug and alcohol abuse.

Get the app here

Feds Move to Stop Opioid- and Heroin-Related Overdose, Death

A targeted initiative aimed at reducing prescription opioid- and heroin-related overdose, dependence, and death has been announced by the US Health and Human Services (HHS).

“Opioid drug abuse is a devastating epidemic facing our nation,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement.

“I have seen firsthand in my home state of West Virginia, a state struggling with this very real crisis, the impact of opioid addiction,” she added.

“That’s why I’m taking a targeted approach to tackling this issue, focused on prevention, treatment, and intervention.”

HHS efforts are aimed at three priority areas. They include training and educational resources to help healthcare professionals make informed prescribing decisions to address opioid overprescribing.

These resources will include updated guidelines for prescribers and will establish new opioid prescribing guidelines for chronic pain.

Efforts will also be directed toward facilitating prescription drug monitoring programs to support data sharing for safe prescribing.

These efforts will be supported by increasing investment in state-level prevention interventions that will help track opioid prescribing and support appropriate pain management.

Secretary Burwell also plans to increase the use of naloxone and to support the development of other lifesaving drugs to reduce the number of deaths associated with prescription opioid and heroin overdose.

These efforts will include the implementation of a prescription drug overdose grant program for states to buy naloxone and train first responders on its use.

Plans are also in place to expand the use of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT.

MAT is a comprehensive effort that combines the use of medication with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders.

A grant program is also planned to improve access to MAT through education, training, and purchase of MAT medications for the treatment of prescription opioid and heroin addiction.

These investments are all part of the President’s FY 2016 budget to intensify efforts to reduce opioid misuse and abuse, including $133 million in new funding.

Deaths from drug overdose have risen steadily during the past 2 decades and currently outnumber deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the United States.

Among drug overdose deaths recorded in 2013, approximately 37% involved prescription opioids.

Deaths related to heroin use have also risen sharply since 2010, with a 39% increase between 2012 and 2013.

Heroin use is a public health emergency that calls for legislative solutions

MORE PEOPLE are killed now by drug overdoses than by homicides in many states, prompting alarmed state lawmakers and attorneys general to search for legislative fixes. The sense of urgency, impelled especially by a spike in lethal heroin overdoses, is justified. Some of the measures proposed to address the problem may not be.

The new focus on heroin use coincides with very sharp increases nationally in overdose deaths in middle-class and predominantly white communities. It’s a shame that that’s what it took to rally the authorities to action; still, better late than never.

About 20 states, including Maryland, and the District have enacted bills to ensure that first-responders carry naloxone, a prescription drug also known by the brand name Narcan, which can save the lives of opiate users who have overdosed. Unfortunately, the spike in demand for the antidote has driven up its cost, which is proving a burden for some states and localities. Nonetheless, more states need to step up and recognize heroin use as a public health emergency.

Virginia is a case in point. Heroin-related deaths more than doubled in the commonwealth from 2011 to 2013 and increased at an even faster rate in Northern Virginia. Yet no law requires emergency medical personnel to carry Narcan; some do and some don’t. Worse, some lawmakers apparently believe that making the antidote more accessible will encourage heroin addiction, as if the availability of treatment somehow enables disease.

There are other sensible steps that states can take. They include enacting so-called good Samaritan laws (in place in Maryland and the District but not yet in Virginia) that shield witnesses from prosecution — even if they abuse or sell drugs themselves — if they promptly report and help overdose victims.

States should also consider measures that crack down on unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists who illegally or inappropriately prescribe and dispense opiate pills like OxyContin, which can be a gateway to heroin . And it’s also worth tracking the results of legislation adopted in New York that allows addicts to remain in treatment programs while they appeal decisions by insurance companies that have denied coverage.

However, we are skeptical that some measures to further criminalize already illegal drugs such as heroin will be effective. One idea, pushed by some prosecutors, is to expose drug dealers to homicide charges if they sell what turns out to be a lethal overdose. The experience of the federal war on drugs suggests that harsher penalties fill up jails and prisons without doing much to extinguish the sale of illegal narcotics.

A wiser tack is to treat heroin addiction as a public health emergency. That means establishing more readily available long-term treatment programs, preferably in residential settings that can help shield users from dealers. Such programs cost money. That in itself will be a test for leaders like Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan (R), who has rightly proclaimed that the spike in heroin overdoses is an emergency. In the face of Mr. Hogan’s promise to slash state spending, will he be able to fulfill his promise to come to grips with this epidemic

Jump in Colorado School Drug Cases May be Linked to Marijuana Legalization: Experts

Colorado middle schools reported a 24 percent increase in drug-related incidents last year, according to USA Today. School-based experts tell the newspaper they believe the jump is directly related to marijuana legalization. Recreational sales of marijuana began on January 1, 2014.

Schools do not report which kinds of drugs are involved in the incidents, the article notes. State legislators are now asking school districts to keep track of which drugs they are finding.

John Simmons, the Denver Public Schools’ Executive Director of Student Services, says schools in his city saw a 7 percent increase in drug incidents, from 452 to 482. Almost all of the incidents were related to marijuana, he said.

Middle schools across the state reported a total of 951 drug violations, the highest number in a decade. School officials say while marijuana use has long been a problem, more students are trying it now that it is more easily available and socially accepted.

“We have seen parents come in and say, ‘Oh that’s mine, they just took it out of my room,’ and that sort of thing,” said school resource officer Judy Lutkin of the Aurora Police Department. “Parents have it in their houses more often, and the kids just can take it from home.”

“Middle schoolers are most vulnerable to being confused about marijuana,” said Dr. Christian Thurstone, attending physician for the Denver Health Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment program. “They think, ‘Well, it’s legal so it must not be a problem.’”

Meg Sanders, owner of MiNDFUL, a marijuana company that operates in Colorado, says her business is very careful not to market to children. “We feel it’s our responsibility as a responsible business to card not just once but twice for any recreational customer, and medical patients have to show several documents before they can purchase marijuana,” she said.

Marijuana Research Review Details Harmful Outcomes of Use

A review of 20 years of marijuana research concludes there are real risks to using the drug, according to researchers. These include increased risk of car crashes, dropping out of high school and cognitive impairment. Marijuana does not produce fatal overdoses, the review notes.

According to the review, published in the journal Addiction, research in the past 20 years has shown that driving while marijuana-impaired approximately doubles the risk of car crashes. About 10 percent of regular marijuana users develop dependence. Regular use of the drug during the teenage years doubles the risks of dropping out of high school and of cognitive impairment in adulthood. “Regular adolescent cannabis users have lower educational attainment than non-using peers but we don’t know whether the link is causal,” the researchers note in a press release.

The review looked at marijuana studies conducted from 1993 to 2013. It found marijuana use in teens is strongly associated with the use of other illegal drugs. It is not known whether marijuana use causes teens to start using other drugs, the review noted.

Lead researcher Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland Center for Youth Substance Abuse Research in Australia concluded marijuana use probably increases cardiovascular disease risk in middle-aged adults, “but its effects on respiratory function and respiratory cancer remain unclear, because most cannabis smokers have smoked or still smoke tobacco.”

Hall noted that the amount of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, has increased in the past 20 years. “The impacts of increased potency on cannabis use should be a research priority,” he wrote.

The review listed other adverse effects of regular marijuana use, including a twofold risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms and disorders, especially in someone with a personal or family history of psychotic disorders who starts using marijuana in their mid-teens.