Risks of Youth Marijuana Use

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Health, Education, Safety Experts Join White House Drug Czar To Educate Parents About Risks of Youth Marijuana Use

U.S.Newswire, 3/10/2003 05:04

To: National and Business Desks

Contact: Jennifer de Vallance, 202-395-6618, or

Erika Batcheller, 202-828-8821

WASHINGTON, March 10 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The nation's leaders in health, education, and safety are continuing an effort to educate parents about the serious risks of teen marijuana use. Together with White House Drug Czar John Walters, seven national organizations have signed onto a new ''Open Letter'' that gives parents specific facts about marijuana's health and social consequences for teens. Starting today, the letter will run in more than 300 newspapers nationwide.

The letter, part of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, warns about lung damage, physical and mental health consequences, and risky behaviors linked to youth marijuana use. Signatories include the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Automobile Association, the National Education Association, and the National Crime Prevention Council.

''We're speaking directly to parents about the specific ways marijuana can damage a young person's future,'' said John P. Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy. ''Marijuana is riskier than many parents think. Smoking marijuana hurts young bodies and minds, and more young people are in treatment for marijuana than for all other illicit drugs combined.''

According to the American Psychiatric Association, marijuana use may trigger panic attacks, paranoia and even psychoses, especially if users are suffering from anxiety, depression, or having thinking problems.

''Smoking marijuana can injure or destroy lung tissue. Marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more of some cancer causing chemicals than does tobacco smoke,'' said John L. Kirkwood, President and CEO of the American Lung Association.

''Teens who are high on marijuana are less able to make safe, smart decisions about sex - including saying no,'' said Sarah Brown, Director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. ''Teens who have used marijuana are four times more likely to get pregnant or get someone pregnant than teens who haven't.''

Research shows that teens listen to their parents when it comes to decisions about drug use. Two-thirds of youth ages 13-17 say fear of losing their parents' respect is one of the main reasons they don't smoke marijuana or use other drugs. What parents do and say matters.

Parents can help keep their kids drug-free by asking questions and staying involved in their childrens' lives. More information about the effects of marijuana use and its signs and symptoms, as well as advice for parents on keeping kids drug-free, can be found on ONDCP's Media Campaign Web site for parents at http://www.theantidrug.com. Parents can also call the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 1-800-788-2800 for free resources. Information for youth about marijuana can be found by visiting http://www.freevibe.com.

The new ad is a follow up to an ''Open Letter to Parents About Marijuana'' that ran in newspapers last September and was signed by 17 leading public health, parenting and drug prevention groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National PTA, and the American College of Emergency Physicians.

The ads are one part of the largest and most comprehensive initiative ever undertaken to prevent youth marijuana use. More kids use marijuana than cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and all other illicit drugs combined. While marijuana use has declined slightly in the last year, the number of 8th graders who used the drug doubled between 1991 and 2001 from one in ten to one in five.

In 1998, with the bipartisan support of Congress and the President, ONDCP created the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, an effort designed to educate and empower youth to reject illicit drugs. Counting on an unprecedented blend of public and private partnerships, non-profit community service organizations, volunteerism, and youth-to-youth communications, the Campaign is designed to reach Americans of diverse backgrounds wherever they live, learn, work, play, and practice their faith.


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