Most parents are excited when summer time finally rolls around. Parents and their children are looking forward to the warmer weather and the break from school. However, for parents of pre-teens and teenagers, summer time is often a time of additional caution and concern as their children enjoy more freedom in activities and less parental supervision. One of the areas of concern this summer season has become the issue of marijuana use and abuse.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 7% of 8th graders, 18% of 10th graders, and 22.7% of 12th graders used marijuana in the past month prior to being surveyed in 2013. Daily marijuana use also increased; 6.5% of 12th graders use marijuana every day, compared to 5% in the mid-2000s. The legalization of marijuana is quickly changing the landscape of our communities’ ability to reinforce the dangers of marijuana use and the legal consequences associated with marijuana.

Teenage illicit drug use has been continuously increasing due to the popularity of marijuana, which coincides with the medical marijuana rhetoric and marijuana legalization. According to NIDA, synthetic marijuana (Spice or K2) is also adding to the problems that teenagers face with drug and alcohol addiction. Spice is readily available online or in smoke shops. Although it’s marketed as “not fit for human consumption”, more and more teenagers are smoking this dangerous and deadly substance.

There are several issues when it comes to young people using and abusing marijuana. The risks include an increased chance of addiction, interference with a healthy development of the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the development of phobias and fears related to marijuana, and the safety risk that arises when teens choose to drive while high. According to NIDA, estimates from research suggest that about 9% of users become addicted to marijuana. Daily users have a much higher chance of becoming addicted (25-50%). Marijuana use among young people can also hurt the brain. New studies show that regular marijuana use – once a week or more – actually changes the brain’s structure. 

The best strategy for preventing drug abuse and addiction is to educate your children using the most accurate information on marijuana use and abuse. Encourage your children to ask you questions. If you suspect your teen is using marijuana, look for the signs. Get help for your teen if you think he or she is abusing drugs or alcohol.

Summer days are a time to enjoy a new season and reunite with family and friends.  It is a time for children to capture the remainder of their childhood in a safe and drug free community.

Karen Walsh

Contributed by Guest Blogger Karen Corcoran Walsh

Karen Corcoran Walsh is a renowned South Florida substance abuse treatment professional and owner/co-founder of the Cove Center for Recovery and Inspirations for Youth and Families. She is considered an expert on teen addiction and addiction therapy. Her acclaim led to an appearance on Dr. Phil’s TV show in 2010 – speaking on the topic of substance abuse and addiction. She holds a Master of Science degree from the School of Marriage and Family Therapy at Nova Southeastern University. Karen is a member in good standing with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT) and the American Psychotherapy Association (APA). She is also an active member in the Boca Raton, Florida Chambers of Commerce.