Could Smoking Pot Be Good for Teens?

Could Smoking Pot Be Good for Teens?
Posted by CN Staff on November 10, 2007 at 06:11:15 PT
By Bruce Mirken, AlterNet
Source: AlterNet
Washington, DC -- A new study from Switzerland raises the question: Might marijuana actually be good for teens? The answer is almost certainly no, but if one follows the logic used by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP, aka the Drug Czar's office), the answer would be, "In some ways, yes."If that seems confusing, allow me to explain.
The Swiss study, just published in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine was based on a survey of 5,263 students, aged 16-20. Scientists compared teens who smoked both cigarettes and marijuana, those who used only marijuana, and those who abstained from both substances. The results were surprising.By pretty much all measures, the youths using both marijuana and tobacco were doing the worst. Compared to those using marijuana only, they had poorer grades, were less likely to finish school, more likely to be depressed and more likely to get drunk frequently. Their marijuana use was also much more frequent than the marijuana-only group, and they were much more likely to have started smoking marijuana before age 15. But the marijuana-only teens were strikingly similar to the abstainers, with very few statistically significant differences. The marijuana smokers were more likely to skip school but had comparable grades and were just as likely to finish their schooling as the abstainers. The marijuana users had more "sensation-seeking" personalities, which -- not surprisingly -- translated to somewhat higher use of alcohol or other drugs than the abstainers. But the marijuana-only group's use of alcohol and other drugs was far lower than the marijuana/cigarette group.And in some ways the teens using marijuana looked better than the abstainers. They had better peer relationships, were more likely to be involved in sports and more likely to be on an academic (as opposed to vocational) track in school.But these associations, as researchers call them, do not prove cause and effect. Just because A and B happen together tells nothing about whether A causes B, B causes A, or some third factor causes both A and B.And that's where the Drug Czar gets into trouble. ONDCP regularly uses such correlations to frighten parents about marijuana in an utterly dishonest way. For example, an ONDCP ad published in major newspapers and magazines around the country bore the headline, "Marijuana can limit your teen's academic achievement." It went on to warn parents, "Marijuana use is linked to poorer grades. A teen with a 'D' average is four times more likely to have used marijuana than a teen with an 'A' average."Well, yes, there was a study showing such an association, but just like the Swiss study, it did not and could not prove that marijuana caused the poorer grades. Indeed, there is a small mountain of evidence suggesting that it's the teens doing poorly in school who start smoking marijuana at a young age in the first place.So by ONDCP's logic, it should now start running ads telling parents that smoking marijuana is linked to better peer relationships, involvement in athletics and more interest in academics. Don't hold your breath.(It's worth noting here that there are good reasons to urge teens not to smoke marijuana. Some things, like psychoactive drugs, are simply best handled after one has acquired a bit of experience and maturity. Second, there are still unanswered questions about marijuana's effect on developing brains. Given that the brain uses marijuanalike chemicals as part of its natural communication system, pouring in large amounts of similar compounds while that neural circuitry is still developing seems needlessly risky until more is known.)What the Swiss study does, if policymakers would only listen, is suggest that ONDCP's obsessive focus on stamping out even occasional marijuana use is misguided. The serious public health problem isn't good students who light up an occasional joint with friends on weekends, much as we might prefer they not do so. The real problem is the population of kids, clearly identifiable in the Swiss research, using multiple substances at an early age and having all sorts of problems at school and home. These kids -- more depressed, less likely to finish school and using heavy amounts of marijuana, booze and other drugs -- exist in the United States as well as Switzerland, and they clearly need help that many aren't getting.For most of these teens, substance use likely wasn't the original cause of their problems, but it's almost certainly making them worse. ONDCP could be helping parents and schools identify these kids and get them help. Instead, officials cherry-pick data to bolster an ideological agenda while ignoring the real problem. Bruce Mirken is communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. Source: AlterNet (US)Author:  Bruce Mirken, AlterNetPublished: November 10, 2007Copyright: 2007 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: Articles & Web Site:Marijuana Policy Project Cigarettes More of a Drag on Teens Than MJ? -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #4 posted by rchandar on November 12, 2007 at 15:46:45 PT:
I agree. ONDCP--and the government's--rhetoric is all about how "precious" children are. what they and the study neglect to admit--and probably, won't admit, is that life is not only about what we are when we're teenagers, that there are many routes to success and happiness that are beyond the teenage years. frequently in our society there are many people who are not educated or good with grades, but have a good deal of knowledge and are successful with it. the government has been on the firing line a long, long time because of the lack of attention they pay to education, so the default logic is to extend government rhetoric to the topic of "kids using drugs." It's a hat-trick that has allowed them to escape criticism. to say that "education" corresponds to what the government thinks kids should be learning is ridiculous, but a product of state education: education is knowledge, not media stunt satire, and should be understood as such. if we keep thinking: "if these kids could just do well in math, we'd have 300,000 more NASA engineers", we do harm to an institution that could produce more writers, more rock stars, more fashion moguls, and more philosophers--something we sorely need today.what do I know, though? after all, i'm just a teacher.
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Comment #3 posted by unkat27 on November 11, 2007 at 03:22:14 PT
It sure helps me
I know that its good for me. I know that it helps me relax, calm my nerves, ease my tension and purge my anxiety. I know it helps me overcome depression and suppresses the many pains in my body that make me feel uncomfortable all the time.I know that it acts like a medicine to help me feel more capable of living my life and doing my work in the natural way that anyone should be capable of doing without it, if the world wasn't such a cruel and fearful place to begin with.I know that even though it acts like a medicine to ease my depression, anxiety, and pain, it is denied to me by a world of fascists that don't care about my suffering and pain.
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Comment #2 posted by tintala on November 10, 2007 at 14:18:02 PT:
Most of the people I know ar highly educated, 
Most people I know and am drawn to are pretty much aware and smoke pot, they are highly educated and hold degrees in somthin or other. but yet they smoke pot, are successful and really good people , but smoke pot. OMG pot DOESN'T lead to addiction and death? but is safer than alcohol or tobacco? Point : our government LIED to US!
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Comment #1 posted by ripit on November 10, 2007 at 09:12:34 PT:
not a suprise to me
i quit school long before i ever started smoking cannabis or tobacco.and some of the smartest ppl i know smoke pot!
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