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Letter: National Survey on Drug Use and Health

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently released its national survey on Drug Use and Health and sadly there weren’t too many surprises. Drug use among adolescents nationwide increased between 2008 and 2009, reflecting the trend we’ve seen here on Long Island - a trend that’s accelerated into 2010.

There was a sizable increase in those reporting marijuana use, and the percentage of youth perceiving great risk of harm associated with smoking marijuana weekly dropped from 54.7 percent in 2007 to 49.3 percent in 2009, marking the first time since 2002 that less than half of young people perceived great harm from frequent marijuana use.

At LICADD, we often hear parents of heroin users talk about a time when their kids “just drank and smoked pot on the weekends,” minimizing the well-documented damage alcohol and marijuana do to the developing adolescent brain and ironically ignoring the well-worn pathway to full-blown dependency.

Baby boomers who may have smoked pot during high school and college will quickly point out that the sky didn’t fall because of their use and that they grew into productive and successful professionals. That may be true, but today’s hydroponically grown pot is more potent, the legal consequences have grown and kids connecting with drug dealers today are quickly introduced to the full line-up of illicit drugs, including heroin, OxyContin and Vicodin, which have better profit margins.

There was at least one piece of good news buried in the survey results: according to the survey, past month marijuana use was much less prevalent among youths who perceived strong parental disapproval for trying marijuana than among those who did not - 4.8 percent versus 31.3 percent, respectively. If you have young people in your life, have the conversation today. If you need help, call us at 516-747-2606 and we can come up with a game plan together.

Jeffrey L. Reynolds, Ph.D

Executive Director

L.I. Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence (LICADD)

Website: http://licadd.org