Monday, November 28, 2011

Talking with Students about Medical Marijuana

Talking with Students about Medical Marijuana

Data from the 2010 Ulster County Youth Development Survey showed an alarming trend whereby students feel that marijuana is less and less harmful as they progress from 7th through 12 grade.  Only 22% of 12th graders who took the survey felt that there was a “moderate risk” or “great risk” from smoking marijuana. This puts our students at significant risk for marijuana use, and Ulster Prevention Council has identified this as a critical issue for 2012.

A recent discussion with several local prevention providers focused on the difficulties of discussing the harmful effects of marijuana with high school students.  Often there are one or two students present in a classroom presentation who want to make a strong case for legalizing marijuana because of its perceived safe, medicinal properties.

The prevention providers discussed the importance of media literacy training. Students often do not distinguish between information found in formal research studies and information found by, say, Googling “benefits of marijuana” online.  The development of critical thinking is an important task of adolescence.
Adults also must be ready to listen to youth and not shut them down with a “Drugs are bad, just say no” message. Balanced, accurate information must be presented.  
However, distinctions must be made between use of non-smoked pharmaceuticals such as Marinol and Sativex by seriously ill patients and recreational use of smoked marijuana, an unstable mixture of over 400 chemicals including many toxic psychoactive chemicals. We can then quickly progress to the important discussion of the well documented risks of marijuana use by youth.
One useful website that I have used is  This site contains a wealth of information with appropriate citations, including synopses of 100 peer-reviewed studies on marijuana, U.S. Government reports, a listing of pharmaceutical drugs based on cannabis, polls and surveys, great quotes from leaders in the field and other helpful reference materials.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How Prevalent is Inhalant Abuse in Ulster County?

How Prevalent is Inhalant Abuse in Ulster County?

In 2009, over 2.1 million kids, ages 12 - 17 used an inhalant to get high[1]. The NIDA-funded 2010 Monitoring the Future Study showed that 8.1% of 8th graders, 5.7% of 10th graders, and 3.6% of 12th graders had abused inhalants at least once in the year prior to being surveyed.

In Ulster County, 12.9% of 8th graders reported using an inhalant to get high at least once, and 6.1% reported using within the last 30 days[2]. 9.3% of 10th graders and 5.8% of 12th graders reported using an inhalant at least once.
Inhalants pose a particularly significant problem since they are readily accessible, legal, and inexpensive. They also tend to be abused by younger teens[3] and can be highly toxic and even lethal.
Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication. If sufficient amounts are inhaled, nearly all solvents and gases produce a loss of sensation, and even unconsciousness. Irreversible effects can be hearing loss, limb spasms, central nervous system or brain damage, or bone marrow damage. Sniffing high concentrations of inhalants may result in death from heart failure or suffocation (inhalants displace oxygen in the lungs).  Even a single session of repeated inhalations can lead to cardiac arrest and death by altering normal heart rhythms or by preventing enough oxygen from entering the lungs. Some abusers experience restlessness, nausea, sweating, anxiety, and other symptoms of withdrawal when they stop taking the drug[4]. Like any other drug when abused, inhalants can also lead to accidents and injuries.
Inhalants include a variety of products that produce breathable chemical vapors that can have mind-altering effects.  The substances inhaled are often common household products that contain volatile solvents, aerosols, or gases. Many of these products are commonly found in the home. People do not think that products such as spray paints, nail polish remover, hair spray, glues, and cleaning fluids present any risk of abuse, because their intoxicating effects are so totally unconnected to their intended uses. Yet, young children and adolescents do seek them out for that purpose. Intoxication occurs quickly and usually lasts only a few minutes, making abuse of inhalants easier to conceal than abuse of alcohol or marijuana.
Parents may be unaware of the risks of inhalant abuse. Even those who are watchful for signs of alcohol or drug abuse may not realize the risk associated with products found under the kitchen sink and in the garage. Adults don't have to clear out cabinets, utility closets, and garage shelves to keep young people safe from inhalant abuse. Rather, they should store household products carefully to prevent accidental inhalation by very young children; they should also remain aware of the temptations that these dangerous substances pose to children in their homes, learn the facts, and communicate with children in a way that guides them toward healthy life choices.

[2] 2010 Ulster County Youth Development Survey
[3] NIDA Community Alert Bulletin on Inhalants published in January, 2005
[4] NIDA Notes, Volume 20, Number 3 (October 2005) Inhalant Abuse: Danger Under the Kitchen Sink

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's not too late to win $500 for your community group or youth group!

It's not too late to win $500 for your community group or youth group! The Ulster Prevention Council is still accepting submissions for the Phil Terpening Memorial Award. Please visit

Philip Terpening, a County Legislator from Rosendale was a founding Chair of the Ulster County Substance Abuse Prevention Board until his untimely passing.  As a tribute to Phil and his vision for Ulster, The Board has established an annual memorial dedicated to his commitment to reduce substance use and abuse among youth in Ulster. 
This memorial will award $500 to the community group and $500 to the youth group that promotes substance abuse prevention in the most effective manner. 

The submission Deadline for both awards is November 30, 2011.

Please visit our website for more information.