Marijuana is the illegal drug most often used in this country. Since 1991, lifetime marijuana use has almost doubled among 8th- and 10th-grade students, and increased by a third among high school seniors (19).

Our research shows that accompanying this upward pattern of use is a significant erosion in antidrug perceptions and knowledge among young people today. As the number of young people who use marijuana has increased, the number who view the drug as harmful has decreased.

Among high school seniors surveyed in 2003, current marijuana use has increased by about 54 percent since 1991. The proportion of those seniors who believe regular use of marijuana is harmful has dropped by about 30 percent since 1991 (19).

These changes in perception and knowledge may be due to a decrease in antidrug messages in the media, an increase in prodrug messages through the pop culture, and a lack of awareness among parents about this resurgence in drug use??"most thinking, perhaps, that this threat to their children had diminished.

 There's a dialogue going on. If there is experimentation, I'm going to know and be able to respond.
??"from the videotape, Marijuana: What Can Parents Do?

Because many parents of this generation of teenagers used marijuana when they were in college, they often find it difficult to talk about marijuana use with their children and to set strict ground rules against drug use.

But marijuana use today starts at a younger age??"and more potent forms of the drug are available to these young children. 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 for Teens and Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know, for parents and their children to review the scientific facts about marijuana. While 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., Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse

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 this country.

Cannabis is a term that refers to marijuana and other drugs made from the same plant. Strong forms of cannabis include sinse-milla (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??Ts effect on the user depends on the strength or potency of the THC it contains(6). 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 2003:

Most ordinary marijuana contained, on average, 5 percent THC.

Sinsemilla (made from just the buds and flowering tops of female plants) contained, on average, 12 percent THC, ranging from less than one percent to 27 percent.

Hashish (the sticky resin from the female plant flowers) had an average of 10 percent, ranging from one percent to 26 percent.

Q: What are the current slang terms for marijuana?

A: There are many different names for marijuana. Slang terms for drugs change quickly, and they vary from one part of the country to another. They may even differ across sections of a large city.

Terms from years ago, such as pot, herb, grass, weed, Mary Jane, and reefer, are still used. You might also hear the names Aunt Mary, skunk, boom, gangster, kif, or ganja.

There are also street names for different strains or ??obrands??? of marijuana, such as "Texas tea," "Maui wowie," and "Chronic." One book of American slang lists more than 200 terms for various kinds of marijuana.

Q: How is marijuana used?

A: Most users roll loose marijuana into a cigarette (called a joint or a nail) or smoke it in a pipe. One well-known type of water pipe is the bong. Some users mix marijuana into foods or use it to brew a tea. Another method is to slice open a cigar and replace the tobacco with marijuana, making what's called a blunt. When the blunt is smoked with a 40 oz. bottle of malt liquor, it is called a "B-40."

Lately, marijuana cigarettes or blunts often include crack cocaine, a combination known by various street names, such as "primos" or "woolies." Joints and blunts often are dipped in PCP and are called "happy sticks," "wicky sticks," "love boat," or "tical."

Q: How many people smoke marijuana? At what age do children generally start?

A: A recent government survey tells us:
Marijuana is the most frequently used illegal drug in the United States. Nearly 95 million Americans over the age of 12 have tried marijuana at least once.
Over 14 million had used the drug in the month before the survey.

The Monitoring the Future Survey, which is conducted yearly, includes students from 8th, 10th, and 12th grades. In 2003, the survey showed that 18 percent of 8th-graders have tried marijuana at least once, and by 10th grade, 17 percent are ??ocurrent??? users (that is, used within the past month) (19). Among 12th-graders, 46 percent have tried marijuana/hash at least once, and about 21 percent were current users (19).

Other researchers have found that use of marijuana and other drugs usually peaks in the late teens and early twenties, then declines in later years.

Q: How can I tell if my child has been using marijuana?

A: There are some signs you might be able to see. If someone is high on marijuana, he or she might

seem dizzy and have trouble walking;

seem silly and giggly for no reason;

have very red, bloodshot eyes; and

have a hard time remembering things that just happened.

When the early effects fade, over a few hours, the user can become very sleepy.

Parents should be aware of changes in their child??Ts behavior, although this may be difficult with teenagers. Parents should look for withdrawal, depression, fatigue, carelessness with grooming, hostility, and deteriorating relationships with family members and friends. In addition, changes in academic performance, increased absenteeism or truancy, lost interest in sports or other favorite activities, and changes in eating or sleeping habits could be related to drug use. However, these signs may also indicate problems other than use of drugs.

In addition, parents should be aware of:

signs of drugs and drug paraphernalia, including pipes and rolling papers.

odor on clothes and in the bedroom

use of incense and other deodorizers

use of eye drops

clothing, posters, jewelry, etc., promoting drug use

Q: Why do young people use marijuana?

A: Children and young teens start using marijuana for many reasons. Curiosity and the desire to fit into a social group are common reasons. Certainly, youngsters who have already begun to smoke cigarettes and/or use alcohol are at high risk for marijuana use.

Also, our research suggests that the use of alcohol and drugs by other family members plays a strong role in whether children start using drugs. Parents, grandparents, and older brothers and sisters in the home are models for children to follow.

Some young people who take drugs do not get along with their parents. Some have a network of friends who use drugs and urge them to do the same (peer pressure). All aspects of a child's environment - home, school, neighborhood - help to determine whether the child will try drugs.

Children who become more heavily involved with marijuana can become dependent, making it difficult for them to quit. Others mention psychological coping as a reason for their use - to deal with anxiety, anger, depression, boredom, and so forth. But marijuana use is not an effective method for coping with life's problems, and staying high can be a way of simply not dealing with the problems and challenges of growing up.

Researchers have found that children and teens (both male and female) who are physically and sexually abused are at greater risk than other young people of using marijuana and other drugs and of beginning drug use at an early age (7).

Q: Does using marijuana lead to other drugs?

A: Long-term studies of high school students and their patterns of drug use show that very few young people use other drugs without first trying marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco. Though few young people use cocaine, for example, the risk of doing so is much greater for youth who have tried marijuana than for those who have never tried it (9).

While research has not fully explained this association, growing evidence suggests a combination of biological, social, and psychological factors are involved.

Researchers are examining the possibility that long-term marijuana use may create changes in the brain that make a person more at risk of becoming addicted to other drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine (16). While many young people who use marijuana do not go on to use other drugs, further research is needed to determine who will be at greatest risk.

Q: What are the effects of marijuana?

A: The effects of marijuana on each person depend on the type of cannabis and how much THC it contains;
way the drug is taken (by smoking or eating);
experience and expectations of the user; setting where the drug is used; and use of other drugs and/or alcohol. Some people feel nothing at all when they first try marijuana. Others may feel high (intoxicated and/or euphoric).

It's common for marijuana users to become engrossed with ordinary sights, sounds, or tastes, and trivial events may seem extremely interesting or funny. Time seems to pass very slowly, so minutes feel like hours. Sometimes the drug causes users to feel thirsty and very hungry-an effect called "the munchies."


other sections of this article include:

How long does marijuana stay in the user's body?
Can a user have a bad reaction?
How is marijuana harmful?
How does marijuana affect driving?
What are the long-term effects of marijuana?
What about pregnancy: Will smoking marijuana hurt the baby?
What happens if a nursing mother uses marijuana?
How does marijuana affect the brain?
Can the drug cause mental illness?
Do marijuana users lose their motivation?
Can a person become addicted to marijuana?
What is "tolerance" for marijuana?
Are there treatments to help marijuana users?
Can marijuana be used as medicine?
How can I prevent my child from getting involved with marijuana?
Talking to your children about marijuana

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