This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Carson City Health and Human Services is joining with Partnership Carson City and the National Institute on Drug Abuse to recognize Jan. 23-29 as National Drugs Facts Week. This is a great opportunity to confront the problem of drug use in our community, especially among teens.
Last November, voters in Nevada chose to legalize recreational marijuana use. Legalizing marijuana sends a confusing message to teens, who may now assume because marijuana is legal, using it is safe. Just because the law has changed, however, doesn’t mean using it doesn’t carry consequences. Kathy Bartosz, executive director of the nonprofit Partnership Carson City, is concerned.
“Putting the word ‘recreational’ in front of a drug minimizes the perception of harm. Young people may not realize the effects that using marijuana can have.”
Additionally, marijuana’s new status as a legal drug may make it more accessible to young people. Accessibility and perception of harm are two key things that influence teen drug use.
It’s going to be important for parents and other adults to become educated about what marijuana looks like today, in order to help know if their child is using. Focusing on parents and school staff, Partnership Carson City is working hard to get the word out about what today’s marijuana looks like.
“We want parents to be aware what are signs of use, what the product looks like, so they are better equipped to recognize if their teen is using,” said Bartosz, continuing, “This is coming, and our children will have access to it. We have been unable to keep our youth from using alcohol, and we will be facing the same challenges with marijuana.”
Marijuana is no longer the drug parents remember from years past. Today’s pot is stronger, and is available in many forms, including candy, baked goods and other edibles, soda and beverages, and even lotion.
Some people think marijuana isn’t truly “addictive” or people can’t become “hooked” on the drug, but research shows about 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana use directly affects the brain — specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision making, coordination, emotions, and reaction time. This is especially important with regards to teens using the drug, because their brains are still developing.
While it’s easy to believe “it will never happen to my family,” about a third of high school seniors across the country report using an illicit drug sometime in the past year. While drugs can put a teenager’s health and life in jeopardy, many teens aren’t aware of the risks. Even for those teens who do not abuse drugs, many have friends or family who do. Drug use touches the lives of everyone around the drug user, not just the person who’s actually using drugs.
If you’re looking for local resources and information about substance abuse or would be interested in scheduling a presentation about drug-related topics for your youth or community organization, please visit Partnership Carson City’s website at pcccarson.org. If you’re a drug user or a family member of someone who’s using drugs and are looking for support, Partnership Carson City’s service directory, available on their website, lists resources and providers who can help. For more information about Health Department services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org, or “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CCHHS.