LAS CRUCES – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that during the current pandemic, people are at an increased risk for substance use or the development of substance use disorders, including Cannabis Use Disorder. This risk is present for our county’s youth, as well.
In preparation for a series of articles focusing on prevention of youth marijuana use, the UP! Coalition conducted interviews with community members and subject experts to highlight topics ranging from impacts of marijuana on the developing brain to marijuana and vaping. Today the UP! Coalition shares the story of Taylor (not their real name), who began using marijuana at an early age and how this drug affected their life.
“I became a daily pot smoker at the age of 14. Pot made me feel better, more outside myself,” explained Taylor. “Pot seemed somehow more intellectual, and more rebellious, but also less dangerous than alcohol. It didn’t make you slur or black out.”
While alcohol remains the substance of choice for youth across New Mexico, Taylor’s experiences with marijuana use are not unique. The 2017 Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey found 27 percent of Doña Ana County high school students reported using marijuana in the last 30 days.
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Many known warning signs that indicate substance use in youth are also easily attributed to normal youth behavior, including mood changes, academic problems and changing friends. Other signs are more direct indications of substance use, like finding substances in a youth’s room or physical changes including slurred speech or bloodshot eyes.
Perhaps most important for parents and guardians to remember is that often substance use can have minimal or no warning signs. On this, Taylor said, “Life was pretty manageable for me on cannabis — I graduated from high school near the top of my class, lettered in three varsity sports, and had a community of good friends. I was chronically late, not able to prioritize well, emotionally labile, and always slightly checked out.”
Even without outward negative signs of use, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states youth who consume marijuana are at an increased risk for developing long-term mental and physical health problems. People who use marijuana during adolescence are at increased risk for developing a weakened immune system and respiratory diseases.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the short-term use of marijuana can leave youth at increased risk of using additional types of drugs and alcohol.
The CDC estimates 1 in 6 people who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 will develop an addiction. Up to 30 percent of those who use marijuana may have some degree of CUD, reported a recent study on the prevalence of disorders in the USA published at Jama Psychiatry.
“I spent a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from my pot use. I had cravings and urges to smoke pot,” Taylor explained.
Withdrawal effects of marijuana resemble quitting nicotine including agitation, depression, anxiety, and physical symptoms, such as fever, sweating, chills, and fatigue. Symptoms can last a few days to a week, or even longer, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
“I took or used pot in larger amounts or for longer than I meant to,” Taylor said. “I wanted to cut down or stop using the cannabis on my own but couldn’t manage to do it… I needed to use more of the cannabis to get the effects I wanted.”
Taylor explained it took several attempts of support programs, behavioral therapy and self-reflection to successfully quit.
The safest route for youth is not to begin using marijuana to keep it from becoming a problem and to avoid the risk of developing a substance use disorder. The AACAP recommends talking with your child in late elementary or early middle school in an honest way to promote better choices around drug and alcohol use.
As a parent or guardian, talking with your child about marijuana — and its potentially harmful effects — can help them with problem-solving and decision-making. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has trained professionals available via phone and online chat to help people who think their loved one is struggling with substance misuse. Call 1-855-378-4373 or text 55753.
The UP! Coalition offers our sincerest thanks and congratulations to Taylor, who celebrated eight years of continuous sobriety from alcohol and cannabis on July 5th.
For more information contact CONATCT at 575-597-0042 or email [email protected]
This news release is made available by the Unified Prevention (UP!) Coalition for Doña Ana County, a program of the Center for Health Innovation.
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