As a father of two sons, ages 16 years and 12 years, one of my greatest concerns, worries and fears … is how they will navigated their inevitable encounter with the world of alcohol and drugs.
Even though I have been very educational, strategic and honest in dialoguing with them on numerous occasions about the real world realities of alcohol & drugs (and will continue to do so) … I still have concerns, worries and fears.
My 25 year career as a licensed counselor, specializing in teen life and parenting has afforded me the opportunity and privilege to intimately discuss – with preteens, teens & young adults – many issues, concerns and real life situations … drug & alcohol use/abuse being one of them.
I have polled hundreds of parents over the years asking them what their greatest concerns & fears are regarding their preteen, teenager & young adult. Alcohol and drug use is either #1 or #2.
As a father & a seasoned practitoner here are a few things you need to know:
1. Marijuana use is on the increase. A nationwide survey by The Partnership at Drugfree.org shows heavy teen marijuana use has risen 80% in 4 years. Parents of high school students have a reason for alarm as the use of marijuana is at its highest level among teenagers since 1998.
2. Many teens consider marijuana use to be “Normal”. Another concerning trend is teens are starting to consider the use of marijuana by their peers as a normal occurrence. Nearly three-quarters of teens report that their friends use marijuana on a consistent basis.
3. Middle school students are hearing about marijuana use by students their age, are seeing marijuana use by students their age, are using marijuana and are getting arrested for possession of marijuana. Yes middle school students!
If the above is not alarming, here is were it gets really scary … there is now widely available what is termed synthetic marijuana, which is “legal”.
The use of synthetic marijuana — with names such as K2, Spice, Skunk, Moon Rocks, Potpourri, Yucatan Fire and fake weed — among teenagers continues to grow. Two of the more popular street names being “Spice” or “K2″. This fake (synthetic) weed is an herbal mixture sprayed with chemicals which is intended to create a high similar to smoking marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana can be purchased at gas stations, convenience stores and smoke-shops.
A first-of-its-kind report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, synthetic marijuana was linked to 11,406 drug-related emergency room visits in 2010. That is over 220 “reported” incidents per state on average, and one can only assume many incidents go unreported.
Who ended up in the emergency room most often? Preteens and teens ages 12 to 17.
Health risks associated with synthetic marijuana, reported by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, include:
• Extreme nervousness
• Racing heartbeat
• Elevated blood pressure
• Dilated pupils
So why are they smoking synthetic weed …..
Beyond the aspects of curiosity and experimentation there appears to be to 2 predominant lines of “thinking” and “reasoning” I have come to understand through my work with preteens, teenagers and young adults.
1. For the first time user of smoking marijuana, the herbal synthetic legal weed is assumed to be safe because it is “legal”.
2. The other significant reason to smoke synthetic marijuana is to “fly under the radar” of drug screening. So we see this fake weed being used by teens who have been caught by their parents and/or the police … and are unwilling to quit smoking marijuana.
Now if you are not freaked out yet, this next point scared the fool out of me. There is some synthetic marijuana which looks exactly like real marijuana. Here are two pictures and you will notice that you can not tell the difference.
So which kind – synthetic or real weed – one just purchased from a “friend” … well, you just don’t really know. (The pictuture on top is real weed)
Parents now must play a larger role in educating their kids on the dangers of drug and alcohol use. In some cases, the only facts about drugs many preteens, teens and young adults may receive are from their parents. It is important parents take the time to educate themselves so they can provide their children with accurate and insightful information that prepares their children to make educated choices.
Here are 5 stories to learn more:
1) Teen narrowly escapes death after smoking synthetic marijuana
2) Synthetic marijuana sending more teens to hospital, study finds
3) Use of synthetic marijuana among U.S. teens continues to rise
4) Video – ABC News