Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know
A Letter to Parents
Following a troubling increase in marijuana abuse in the 1990s among U.S. teens, recent findings have shown more encouraging trends. For example, past-year use has fallen significantly among students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades since 2001: it has dropped by 24 percent among 8th-graders, 23 percent among 10th-graders, and 15 percent among 12th-graders. Perceived risk of harm from smoking marijuana regularly remained stable for all three grades from 2005 to 2006, and perceived availability of marijuana fell significantly among 10th-graders, from 72.6 percent in 2005 to 70.7 percent in 2006.
Even with these encouraging trends, marijuana is still the illegal drug most often abused in the United States. Its continued high prevalence rate, particularly among teens, indicates that we still have a long way to go. In addition, because many parents of present-day teens used marijuana when they were in college, they often find it difficult to talk about marijuana with their children and to set strict ground rules against it. This conversation must begin early, as marijuana use today often starts at a young age—with more potent forms of the drug now available to these children and adolescents. Parents need to recognize that marijuana use is a serious threat, and they need to tell their children not to use it.
We at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) are pleased to offer these two short booklets, Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know and Marijuana: Facts for Teens, for parents and their children to review the scientific facts about marijuana. Although it is best to talk about drugs when children are young, it is never too late to talk about the dangers of drug use.
Talking to our children about drug abuse is not always easy, but it is very important. I hope these booklets can help.
Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Q: What is marijuana? Are there different kinds?
A: Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). Before the 1960s, many Americans had never heard of marijuana, but today it is the most often used illegal drug in the United States.
Cannabis is a term that refers to marijuana and other drugs made from the same plant. Strong forms of cannabis include sinsemilla (sin-seh-me-yah), hashish (“hash” for short), and hash oil. All forms of cannabis are mind-altering (psychoactive) drugs; they all contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana. They also contain more than 400 other chemicals.
Marijuana’s effect on the user depends on the strength or potency of the THC it contains. THC potency has increased since the 1970s and continues to increase still. The strength of the drug is measured by the average amount of THC in test samples confiscated by law enforcement agencies. For the year 2006, most ordinary marijuana contained, on average, 7 percent THC.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
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