National poll shows majority of U.S. teens' parents think new marijuana laws put teens at risk

April 10, 2014

Rosecrance believes the legalization of marijuana may send a confusing message to teenagers

Rosecrance McHenry County

74% of parents of teenagers agree that “marijuana is an addictive substance for teenagers.”

ROCKFORD — A large majority of parents of teenagers (80%) agree that with the recent legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational uses, teens may be more likely to experiment with marijuana.

The poll of parents of children aged 13-17 was conducted online by Harris Poll in January and commissioned by Rosecrance Health Network, a leading national provider of substance abuse treatment for teens and adults. With almost 100 years of experience serving children and families, Rosecrance is the country’s premier treatment facility for teens.

Rosecrance Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Thomas Wright, said he is concerned that legalization very likely may increase marijuana use among teens, which could have both short- and long-term consequences.

“Legal does not mean harmless,” Dr. Wright said. “There is no safe level of substance use among teens because their brains are still developing.”

Dr. Wright said drug use of any kind can negatively affect how the young brain develops and functions. The long-term impact can include lowered IQ, impaired cognitive functioning, depression, anxiety and psychosis. Additionally, marijuana today is stronger than it was even a decade ago.

“Beyond that,” Dr. Wright said, “research clearly shows that marijuana is addictive and that people who begin using at an early age are many times more likely to become addicted later in life to other drugs.”

Additional results from the survey include:

  • 74% agree that “marijuana is an addictive substance for teenagers”
  • 69% agree that “having easier access to marijuana may accelerate teen children moving to other drugs more quickly”
  • 60% agree that “marijuana is more potent than it has been in the past”

Dr. Wright said parents need to start early talking with their children about healthy behaviors and avoiding drug use. He explained that having face time every day with children and keeping track of their friend groups, grades and extracurricular activities is important. Additionally, parents should establish boundaries and make it clear that any substance use is unacceptable.  At the first indication of substance use, parents should confront the child and talk with a knowledgeable professional, whether it is a pastor, a school counselor or someone familiar with addiction counseling.

“If necessary, reach out for professional, evidence-based treatment,” Dr. Wright said. “Nothing good happens when substance abuse goes untreated. Families need to know that help is available.”

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