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Marijuana: Some Recent News

May 30, 2014  |  Falmouth Enterprise

Dr. Michael Bihari

Marijuana continues to be a controversial issue and in recent months there has been a lot of newsprint and media attention devoted to the subject. This will increase as we learn more from the Colorado and Washington State experiences and as we move towards the political battle to legalize pot in Massachusetts.

As a pediatrician I am concerned about the health and well-being of our youth. To make sure that I keep on top of the latest news, I subscribe to several newsletters from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Library of Medicine. The following articles about marijuana have recently come across my laptop: 

Pot-Booze Combo More Dangerous for Teen Drivers Than Alcohol Alone

According to a study from the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research published earlier this month, teenagers who mix alcohol and marijuana are more likely to be dangerous on the road than teens who use one or the other drug.

The researchers reported that teens who used alcohol and marijuana at the same time were 50 to 90 percent more likely to engage in unsafe driving than their peers who did not drink or smoke pot. They also had a higher risk for tickets or wrecks compared with kids who only drank.

The author of the study Terry-McElrath noted, “There's a very clear increase in risk for this group of kids, and for the rest of us on the roads. As you go from alcohol use to alcohol and marijuana use concurrently, your risk increased.” 

The findings come from surveys of more than 72,000 U.S. high school seniors, who were asked to report their alcohol or drug use during the previous 12 months, as well as whether they had been in a car wreck or had gotten a ticket for a moving violation.

Teens who drank were 40 percent more likely to admit they had gotten a traffic ticket and 24 percent more likely to admit involvement in a traffic crash, the researchers found.

But teens who drank and smoked pot at the same time were 90 percent more likely to get a ticket and 50 percent more likely to be in a wreck.

College Guys More Likely to Drive While Stoned Than Drunk

In a study published this month in the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers from the University of Massachusetts, School of Public Health and Health Science reported that about 44 percent of college-age men reported driving while stoned during the previous month, compared with only 12 percent who said they drove after drinking. Additionally, more than 50 percent of men had been a passenger in a vehicle with a stoned driver.

Interestingly, college women are less likely to drive while stoned, with only 9 percent getting behind the wheel after using pot. However, 35 percent of the women admitted to riding with a driver who had been smoking marijuana.

The researchers also found that for every 1 percent increase in the number of friends who use marijuana, there's a 2 percent increase in the risk of riding with a stoned driver.

Nationally, marijuana is involved in 12 percent of all fatal crashes among 16- to 20-year-olds; the combination of substance use and inexperience behind the wheel increases the risk of a wreck.

Vaporizers and Hash Oil

Although not a published article, I received this interesting and newsworthy email from a someone at the Community Health Center: “A friend told me last night she caught her son with a vaporizer and a brown sticky substance between two pieces of paper. She brought it to the police and they told her it is hash oil, a concentrated form of THC. Apparently it is catching on in the area and the worst part is that it has no odor, so hard to detect!”

With the advent of legal medical marijuana, vaporizing the active ingredients in pot has became an alternative to avoid the potential harm of smoking. A Google search for “vaporizers hash oil” returned more than 100,000 sites, many of which provided access to vaporizers in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors along with directions and the necessary equipment to extract the oils from the dried weed.

To quote one vendor: “A plethora of new pen-sized vapes have hit the market – offering cannabis consumers a stealthy, convenient way to get high in almost any location or situation. But with so many options, how can John Q. Stoner know which ones are worthy of their cash and stash, and which ones are worthy of the trash?”

The Bottom Line

It’s important for parents and grandparents to be well-informed about these issues and the potential risks for our teens. This site has a number of articles and resource links about marijuana. Just click on "Street Drugs" or the green marijuana leaf.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Marijuana Facts for Teens: Presented in question-and-answer format and targeted to teens, provides facts about marijuana and its potential harmful effects. 

MedlinePlus: Marijuana provides access to information from reliable sources that are accurate and up-to-date.

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