Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ulster Prevention Council Blog 9-18-13: Marijuana Part 1

Most students should be settling back into a school routine nicely by now. However, for those whose use of marijuana increased in frequency and amount over the summer, the transition may not be going so smoothly. Sometimes students who intended to stop smoking marijuana once September rolled around have trouble sticking to that decision. Research shows that approximately 9 percent, or about 1 in 11, of those who use marijuana at least once will become addicted. This rate increases to 16 percent, or about 1 in 6, if you start in your teens, and goes up to 25-50 percent among daily users. Among young people in drug abuse treatment, marijuana accounts for the largest percentage of admissions: 61 percent of those under age 15 and 56 percent of those 15-19.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) provides standard criteria for the classification of disorders. Criteria for Substance Use Disorders include taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you meant to, wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to, cravings and urges to use the substance, and not managing to do what you should at work, home or school because of substance use.
For heavy users who are trying to go curtail using marijuana, they are likely to experience quite a bit of discomfort. The DSM-5 includes new diagnostic criteria for Cannabis Withdrawal, caused by cessation of cannabis use that has been heavy and prolonged, and results in significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, and is characterized by at least three of these symptoms: irritability, anger or aggression; nervousness or anxiety; sleep difficulties; decreased appetite or weight loss; restlessness; depressed mood; and or physical symptoms such as stomach pain, shakiness or tremors, sweating, fever, chills, and headache.
What can we do for youth? First, take marijuana use seriously. It's not a harmless rite of passage. Second, know what interventions are available and effective in addressing marijuana use disorders. Over the next few weeks we'll explore the ins and outs of marijuana and discuss what the most current research shows about the short term and long term consequences of marijuana use. Unless we're clear about the harm, we will certainly be sending mixed messages to youth.

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Cheryl DePaolo
Director of Ulster Prevention Council

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