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home : opinions : commentary December 17, 2014


9/11/2013 10:54:00 AM
Commentary
Think marijuana is harmless? Think again
By Sheila Polk
Special to the Tribune

Odds are you know someone who has struggled with addiction from either legal or illegal substances. In 2011, 2.3 million people in the United States 12 or older sought treatment for illicit drug or alcohol use at a treatment facility, according to SAMHSA, our nation's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Add to that number those who did not seek or could not afford treatment and the number of adults struggling with addition is much higher.

Marijuana dependence is part of this equation; in fact, marijuana dependence in this country is twice as prevalent as any other illicit psychoactive drug. For the year 2011, 4.2 million Americans suffered from marijuana abuse or dependence. That's almost two thirds the population of the state of Arizona.

The national treatment admission rate for marijuana dependence is also on the rise, at 21 percent higher in 2010 than in 2000. The average age of admission for drug dependence in 2010 was 25 years old; in 2011, more than two thirds were male. In Arizona for 2010, treatment admissions for marijuana exceeded all others substances except alcohol, surpassing admissions for methamphetamine in 2009.

As we strive for global competitiveness and lament the performance of our school children compared to their international peers, it is time to face the truth about pot. Regular marijuana use jeopardizes a young person's chances of success - in school and in life.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse warns us that habitual teen marijuana use is linked to a significant decrease in IQ, seven to eight points; school drop-out and failure; other drug use; and mental health problems. This cannot be ignored. A loss of eight IQ points is titanic, dropping a person of average intelligence into the lowest third of the intelligence range.

Nationally, one in 15 high school seniors use pot on a regular basis. The Arizona Youth Survey for 2012 reports more than one in five of Arizona's high school seniors used pot in the last 30 days, and a 14.4 percent cumulative increase in past 30-day use between 2008 and 2012 for grades eight, 10 and 12.

Given the increases we are seeing in marijuana use among our teens, it is more crucial than ever to challenge the impression many of them have that marijuana is a benign, unfairly demonized substance.

When I see public opinion swaying toward legalization of marijuana, I scratch my head. Why would we legalize a substance to which so many people in this country, particularly our young adults, are already addicted? One in 11 users of marijuana will become addicted. For those who start smoking pot as teens, the addiction rate is higher - one in six; and for those who smoke it daily, as many as one in every two will develop marijuana dependence.

Unlike methamphetamine, heroin, and the recent scourge of bath salts and spice, the harm caused by marijuana is not immediately apparent. Users of marijuana don't typically experience a life-threatening overdose, or deteriorate into the gaunt and ravaged images of meth users. Rather, marijuana starts the user on a downward life trajectory, affecting IQ and cognitive development, mental health, education attainment, delinquency and social growth. Cognitive ability that declines slowly over a span of months or years is not the kind of harm that young people are easily able to identify nor is it the type of news that garners headlines.

I am at the forefront of substance abuse issues because I see the harm - I see the child abuse inflicted by the neglectful pot-smoking parent; I see the traffic fatalities by the driver impaired due to marijuana; and I see the more subtle signs of destruction - the growing number of young adults, primarily male, addicted to marijuana. How sad it is to see bright young people lose their ambition, focus and drive, slipping instead into the grips of a drug that subtly changes life's course from healthy and promising to lost dreams and low achievement. Gloom descends upon me when concerned parents share their stories of their pot-using teen falling behind in school while insisting that marijuana is harmless because it is "medicine."

Withdrawal from marijuana addiction, as the body relearns to function without the benefit of artificial stimulation of the brain, is characterized by the same symptoms as other drugs - cravings, irritability, low self-confidence, despondency, depression, and suicidal thoughts. The good news is that recovery is possible.

Parents ask me what they can do. Here is my best answer: As adults, we have the obligation to do a better job of creating a safe environment within which our kids can succeed. Educate our youth and the voting public about the value of their brains and the damage that marijuana inflicts.

We clearly face an uphill battle getting this message across. The legalization movement across the country and the pressure to ease restrictions on pot increases teens' access and influences their perception that marijuana is safe. We can't sit passively by and watch this slow decline. Marijuana harmless? Think again.

Sheila Polk is the Yavapai County Attorney and co-chair of MATForce, the Yavapai County Substance Abuse Coalition.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Article comment by: justa gal in PV

Well , interesting talk here.
Everyone here better get out the vote. When we the people first voted for mmj it was denied by our state house, and senate, again we voted for mmj, again they denied election results from the people .
On the third try. It was. "allowed" to take effect...
So pay attention to who you vote for.....
All of them......
Especially the author of this false , misleading article.
But we need state reps who listen to the people...So please do not vote for the staid backwards thinking politican...
Why not vote for a change...
Are we grownups here? Lets take charge of our state...
Lets not fill the for profit prisons with people who smoke pot..
Lets go after real bad guys....


Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: JAMES MERKLE

cannabis is not addictive !!!!

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: David Wisniewski

If you are against legalization of marijuana you are one of three kind of people.
1. An idiot.
2. Misinformed
3. A Prohibition Profiteer


Posted: Monday, March 24, 2014
Article comment by: Ben Meyer

4.2 million 'addicts' out of 230 million Americans is about 1%. When 50% of Americans drink and 30% of Americans are overweight maybe we should abdicate our time and attention more pressing issues. Like how to prevent the suicides of 1/20 servicemen and women or how to cure cancer. Plus, the data I read is in direct conflict with what I'm reading in this article.
Sources:
http://www.marijuana.com/threads/ca-marijuana-study-finds-teen-use-in-medical-marijuana-states-is-down.165088/ and
Teen Use of Marijuana Decreased Since Passage of Arizona Medical-Pot Law, Study Shows blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2013/01/teen_use_of_marijuana_decrease.php


Posted: Saturday, March 15, 2014
Article comment by: Raul Diaz, Ph.D.

How Does Marijuana Affect the Brain?

When marijuana is smoked, THC rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. It is absorbed more slowly when ingested in food or drink.

However it is ingested, THC acts on specific molecular targets on brain cells, called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are ordinarily activated by chemicals similar to THC that naturally occur in the body (such as anandamide see picture, above) and are part of a neural communication network called the endocannabinoid system. This system plays an important role in normal brain development and function.

The highest density of cannabinoid receptors is found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. Marijuana overactivates the endocannabinoid system, causing the “high” and other effects that users experience. These effects include altered perceptions and mood, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory.

http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana


Posted: Monday, October 7, 2013
Article comment by: Dave Wisniewski

Who ever wrote this was an idiot. Go to rehab or go to jail??hmmm even a first time user will be labeled an addict. Nice try clown.

Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Article comment by: John Q Citizen

Ms. Polk is a public official whom obviously uses her position to further her own personal agenda. If Ms. Polk had actually done unbiased proper research, she would never have written that article. For example: the Netherlands decriminalized marijuana and excerise government control over it the same way the US does with Alchohol with a result of ranking #13 in the world for total crimes while the US ranks #1. CITATION: "Total crimes by country", The Eighth United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (2002) (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Centre for International Crime Prevention)" Ms. Polk should concentrate her efforts on REAL criminals and support freeing our citizens from the criminal justice system for the use of an obviously beneficial plant. Exercise your rights to VOTE and send a message to the proper officials responsible for Ms. Polk that the citizens whom PAY for their lifestyle want freedom from this type of persecution.

Posted: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Article comment by: Renet Tyree

This above article is written by an ignorant propagandizing mis-informer. The fact of the matter is:

"The active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread, say researchers at Harvard University who tested the chemical in both lab and mouse studies." quoted from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070417193338.htm

and according to Dr Sanjay Gupta "Marijuana doesn't have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works. Take the case of Charlotte Figi, who I met in Colorado. She started having seizures soon after birth. By age 3, she was having 300 a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month."

People, educate yourselves. Marijuana is a gift from God! It grows out of the earth! It cures all kinds of ailments, eases people's pain, cleans radiation. To make it taboo, and against the law and not honor it for all of its attributes, is a sin!


Posted: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Article comment by: Just A Voter

NOT one commen from here to there in Yavapai County in favor of ms polks continued war on marijuana. Seems that would send a strong message. The voters of this great state voted for legalization of this plant. And majority in this great nation demand Decriminalization of this plant. Stop the nonsense and abide by the law and by the people and their votes. Stop the insanity of reefer madness. Who does she represent?

Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013
Article comment by: Steve Wilson

She sets up the "harmless" straw man. Never heard any drug policy reform advocate argue that it is harmless or encourage kids to indulge. Typical claptrap bs propaganda. The risks are minescule compared to other substances, medicinal or otherwise, that we allow in a free society. Hardly deserves a response- except that these liars have caused untold devastation to so many people. The author is literate her position appears to be from willful ignorance, therefore she is corrupt, benefiting from the persecution of people who are using a plant with so many benefits for mankind that vast monopolistic industrial powers use people like the author to spread the propaganda about it to protect their fortunes based on supplanting cannabis.
Shame on you, Sheila Polk.


Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013
Article comment by: Steve Wilson

She sets up the "harmless" straw man. Never heard any drug policy reform advocate argue that it is harmless or encourage kids to indulge. Typical claptrap bs propaganda. The risks are minescule compared to other substances, medicinal or otherwise, that we allow in a free society. Hardly deserves a response- except that these liars have caused untold devastation to so many people. The author is literate her position appears to be from willful ignorance, therefore she is corrupt, benefiting from the persecution of people who are using a plant with so many benefits for mankind that vast monopolistic industrial powers use people like the author to spread the propaganda about it to protect their fortunes based on supplanting cannabis.
Shame on you, Sheila Polk.


Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013
Article comment by: John Thomas

No other group has seen their power so obscenely inflated by the fraudulent marijuana prohibition as has prosecuting attorneys - like this author.

The monstrously destructive prohibition puts their boots directly on the necks of HALF the country - those Americans who have smoked marijuana.

Of course Polk, and other DAs, will lie to stay on their high thrones.

So many parasites sucking up the blood-money generated by the war on marijuana consumers.


Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013
Article comment by: William Reynolds

To obtain a more humane and rational approach to the issue, one needs only to search "LEAP" on the web. LEAP is a grassroots organization of Law Enforcement Officials from throughout the nation of around 80,000 members consisting of "Beat Cops to High echelon Judges". Their honesty reveals problems with "Prohibition" that are shocking. Quit locking up our friends and neighbors and really ruining lives.

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Article comment by: Anthony R

Ms. Polk, marijuana treatment is so high because our court system requires "treatment" for those individuals that unfortunately get arrested, despite many of them not needing treatment at all, rather treatment comes as a result of our failed war on drugs. Also, there are more marijuana users than that of Meth because it is known that marijuana is less harmful than even alcohol or tobacco . Furthermore, your opinion of marijuana users is ridiculous as I know many successful, extremely intelligent individuals whom smoke on a daily regularly for decades on end..doctors, lawyers, fortune 100 executives etc... lets be real, the real problem is the war on marijuana and it is about time the situation changes as it is the politicians, lawyers, and authorities that have been brain washed by reefer madness.

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Article comment by: Joshua Respecki

Only 3% of people in treatment programs for marijuna use are there of their own free will. The rest are there mostly because they are offered reduced punishments (like myself) to go through a 'treatment' program . Then statistics get to be shined on by those backwards anti's. Marijuana IS harmless.


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