Citizens of Santa Barbara County, beware. Every day there are articles and advertisements about marijuana in our local papers. The drug, being promoted for medical, recreational, and economic reasons, is now legal in California.

However, has anyone considered the devastating effect marijuana has on teens and young adults? According to Joseph Garbely, chief medical officer for the Caron Foundation, we now see “on a regular basis young people with marijuana-induced psychosis. Ages 18-26. We see a significant misperception about the safety and efficacy of marijuana among our teens and young-adult patient population.” At Caron, the number of patients who were admitted with a primary diagnosis of cannabis use disorder increased more than 22 percent from 2014 to 2019. In those five years, people admitted to treatment for marijuana addiction rose from more than 27 percent of Caron’s total admissions to nearly 40 percent. Secondly, Independent Blue Cross, has seen claims for cannabis use disorder rise between 2012 and 2018 by 180 percent. That included a 100 percent claim rise for patients 19 to 25.

Why is marijuana today more dangerous? For starters, “the nature of what’s being consumed has changed dramatically, said Ital Danovitch, an American Society of Addiction Medicine fellow and psychiatry chairman at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The concentration is stronger and cannabis is being used in vaping. Simply put, the marijuana of today is not the “reefer” of the Woodstock generation.

How does the drug affect young people? Terri L. Randall, medical director of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Substance Use Disorder Clinic, said young patients can experience anxiety and detachment from reality from cannabis use. Also, especially concerning to medical and treatment providers, are the damage done to developing brains by increasingly potent strains. According to the American Medical Association, there is evidence that people who start using cannabis as teenagers risk suffering from impaired memory, attention, and cognitive function that may not improve. A study at Duke University found that people who began regular, continued marijuana use as teenagers, that continued into adulthood, showed an average decline in IQ of 8 points.

Citizens of Santa Barbara County, it is time to get real. It is time to get informed about the dangers of cannabis to our young people. Our children are our future!


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