Not only is it ill advised to allow teens to use marijuana (or alcohol or other drugs) at home but it is also illegal now in many Marin jurisdictions. Local Social Host Ordinances in Marin have existed for over a decade and hold adult homeowners or renters liable for fines of $750 or more for underage parties or gatherings involving alcohol.
Now, because of the anticipated harms to adolescents with the legalization of marijuana, many of those ordinances have been amended to specifically include marijuana and other controlled substances in addition to alcohol. Also specifically covered in those jurisdictions are rental facilities, party buses and limousines. In addition to payment of a fine, those issued a social host ordinance citation can be required to attend a restorative justice program such as Marin County's YMCA Youth Court which among other things, requires attendance by teens at youth court sessions, and with their parents, at a six-hour Saturday class.
Adults are strictly responsible whether they are at home or at the rented facility, bus or limo and whether they have knowledge or not of the gathering, alcohol or other drugs. And liability may result if as few as two or more minors (the number depends on the jurisdiction) are present consuming alcohol, marijuana or other drugs.
Marijuana has been used by more than one in three Americans living today. Many have found that smoking a joint is as enticing and enjoyable as casually sipping a glass of wine. Some have attested to the plant’s medical properties: the MS patient who can move her limbs more freely or the parent of a child whose epilepsy seizures have been significantly curtailed.
For the majority of users, smoking marijuana is enjoyed in the mellow company of friends without causing any major problems. Most have neither crashed a car nor dropped out of school. None have suffered from the “reefer madness” caused by the “devil weed” as depicted in the alarmist film from 1936.
Yet marijuana is not a harmless drug for adolescents. It poses serious health risks in light of its increasingly high potency, impact on the teen brain, addiction potential and other physical and mental health risks. Regular marijuana use presents a significantly greater hazard for adolescents than for adults, especially before they reach the age of 18. Marijuana can affect teens’ personality and performance in school, sports and every area of their lives. The specific hazards of marijuana use by teens are discussed below.
Increased Potency of Today’s Marijuana
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the key active ingredient in marijuana that causes the high. It is found in the oil resin of the plant’s leaves and flowers. In the “old” days (fromthe ‘60’s through the ‘90’s), THC was at a 1-3% concentration (maybe 5% from some dealers). In the early 2000’s, the potency was as much as 8-10%. But in the last decade, there has been an explosion in cultivation techniques and technology resulting in genetic modifications and increased THC levels. Growers have increased the potency of marijuana in order to raise prices and gain profits.
Today it is not uncommon to see THC levels of up to 20-30%. The industry leader for 2016 (the Chiquita Banana strain) was 33% THC and this year it is likely to be even stronger. See http://cannabisreports.org/the-strongest-marijuana-strains-in-2017/ for examples of the strongest strains. In sum, the marijuana that parents may have smoked “back in the day” is nothing like today’s weed. If marijuana were like alcohol, this increase in intoxication potential would be akin to going from drinking a “lite” beer a day to consuming a dozen shots of vodka.
By contrast, modern breeding techniques have resulted in the reduction of another active ingredient, cannabidiol (CBD) - a non-psychoactive chemical which is what holds promise as medicinal treatment.
Vaping with Marijuana. Additionally, vape pens. e-cigarettes and vaporizers (desktop and portable) enable users to inhale heated liquid marijuana and hash oil concentrates. Many teens prefer these pens and e-cigarettes because they are harder to detect.
There is a multitude of personal vaping devices for marijuana: desk top vaporizers (which are not portable or discreet), portable vaporizers (which are usually small enough to fit in a pocket and are used for vaporizing dry herbs), vaporizer pens (mostly for wax and oil concentrates versus dry herbs) and e-cigarettes (mostly for vape juices). Vaping e-liquids (also known as tinctures) combine a flavor and a concentrate with pre-filled tincture cartridges. With less smell, vaping liquids is more discreet than burning herbs.
E-cigarettes also can easily be modified into an electronic pipe (e-blunt or e-joint). If dry herbs are used, a dry herb cartridge attachment is used. If vaping is in the form of THC concentrate (hash oil, wax, budder, BHO, full-melts), a concentrate cartridge or a glass globe attachment is used.
Those most likely to vaporize marijuana with e-cigarettes include males and younger students. According to a 2015 survey by Yale University published in Pediatrics, approximately 27% of high school e-cigarette users have used electronic devices for products containing THC (marijuana, honey oil, dabs, etc.). Dual use (of marijuana and tobacco) is common and initial use of any of these products increases the likelihood of future use of another.
To make these oils, butane is often used, which is highly flammable and can leave toxic solvents on the marijuana oil that is being inhaled. These concentrates contain high levels of THC. Hash oils are typically 60% THC and some concentrates have higher levels - as much as 80-90% or more.
Dabs (also known as Shatter, Wax, Earwax, Budder, Honeycomb, Honey Oil, Crumble Wax, Glob, Honey Buds) are an example of butane hash oils (BTOs).
As users develop a tolerance for THC, they can seek other drugs and bigger highs. Dabbing refers to the practice of inhaling the fumes of very strong concentrates of marijuana – usually waxes and hash oils – that have been heated.
A “how to do dabs” You Tube video, courtesy of High Times is at https://www.youtube.com/.
Edibles come in the form of infused baked goods (brownies, cookies and cake), candy (gummi bears and lollipops), and a bewildering array of other foodstuffs such as gelato, “Nugtella,” “Pot Tarts,” popcorn products and “canna-olive oil.” Marijuana can also be infused into beverages such as multi-flavored sodas.
These foods and beverages can be especially potent and are attractive to kids and to those who don’t like to smoke. Dosing is erratic and therefore the effects are unpredictable and can be dangerous. For example, with gummi bears, few kids are going to eat just the heads - which can equal one dose! Moreover, the effects are delayed with edibles so users tend to ingest more.
At a Quinceanera in San Francisco last year, 19 guests, mostly aged 18 or younger, including a 6-year old, became ill and were hospitalized after eating candy.
Combining Nicotine and Marijuana. Gaining in popularity is a “Spliff” which is a cigarette rolled with a mixture of tobacco and marijuana. This mixture produces its own high: tobacco increases the vaporization efficiency creating more available THC (the active ingredient of marijuana) so that the user feels the effects of marijuana more quickly. This results in a special kind of head rush with the tobacco stimulating adrenaline production.
Susceptibility of the Teen Brain
The teen years are the biggest period of development since the womb. Teen brains are not fully developed until the mid 20s for women and late 20s for men. Until these ages,their neurological wiring is being laid down.
Marijuana is a complex plant containing at least 85 chemicals called cannabinoids. These impact natural cannabinoid receptor sites throughout the brain and the endocannabinoid system. This affects memory and learning (the hippocampus), novelty, emotion and appetite (the amygdala), motor skills (the basal ganglia), real time coordination, selective attention and time sense (the cerebellum), reward mechanisms (the nucleus accumbens) and finally, executive functions (the cortex).
The frontal lobe of the cortex which governs executive functions (such as judgment, reasoning, impulse control, decision-making, problem solving, planning, execution, empathy, compassion and flexibility) is the last to develop. These are all mature brain functions that help teens grow into responsible adults. In other words, teens’ “GO” mechanism in the brain is more fully developed than their “STOP” mechanism. This is why a teen thinks it’s okay to smoke weed daily and does not think doing so will have an impact on their health.
Females More Susceptible
Girls appear to be most affected in terms of their brain development and stunted emotional development. A September 2014 study found that because of their estrogen hormones, females are more susceptible to the effects of THC. In the first ever study to assess gender differences in sensitivities to THC, a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded study found that females develop tolerance to THC more quickly and thus have increased vulnerability to negative side effects such as anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, depression and addiction.
Previous studies also found that women were more prone to marijuana abuse and dependence and that withdrawal symptoms of irritability, sleep disruption and decreased food intake was shown to be more severe.
A 2002 study in the British Medical Journal of a longitudinal Australian study concluded that weekly use in female teenagers predicted an approximately twofold increase in risk for later depression and anxiety, and that daily use was associated with an over fivefold increase.
Marijuana is Addictive. Period.
Although marijuana is not as addictive as drugs like tobacco or heroin it affects the reward centers of the brain in the same way that other addictive drugs do. These drugs of abuse result in the brain adapting to unnatural levels of reward and stimulation from the release of more dopamine than with natural rewards like food, sex and social interaction.
THC bypasses the brain’s GABA receptors (which slowly release dopamine) and instead the brain is flooded with dopamine. This results in the brain not naturally producing the dopamine. The void in dopamine can cause depression which leads to further use.
Overall, 9% of users become addicted, but this increases to 17% (or one in six) with those who start in their adolescent years. This is because of not only their developing brains but also the speed of addiction, which is greater with adolescents. Between 20-50% of daily or near daily adolescent users get addicted. Bear in mind that many studies are outdated because marijuana product development is occurring so fast. With increasing potency, these numbers are likely to worsen.
In 2010, 4.5 million people in the United States met the criteria for abuse and dependency, as established by the American Psychiatric Association. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are more marijuana addicts in the U.S. than Americans addicted to prescription pain relievers, cocaine, tranquilizers, hallucinogens and heroin combined.
Many chronic marijuana users who attempt to go “cold turkey” experience physical withdrawal symptoms. Within three days, these symptoms begin to peak, making abstinence challenging to maintain. A Harvard neuropsychologist has noted that she has seen more physical withdrawal symptoms in adolescents in the last decade, including trouble sleeping, severe mood swings, inability to handle stress, headaches, blurred vision, nausea and flu like symptoms lasting for one week. Local treatment centers note the same increases. Note that these symptoms occur in the absence of other substances.
Moreover, it takes teens longer to recover from addiction. This is because teens don’t have the skills built up or the underlying brain foundations that help them know how to make reasonable, rational decisions.
Treatment and rehab centers across the country report that most of the adolescents they see (85%) have a marijuana use disorder where they are dependent or abusive of marijuana. In California, with medical marijuana, we have already seen a huge escalation in the number of users seeking treatment for abuse or dependence. Between 1992 and 2008, there was a near quintupling of the number of treatment admissions due to marijuana.
Decreased Functioning in School
The harm done to the educational progress are real and strong, and are even greater than the risks of addiction or the harm done to the brain. Marijuana affects learning and can destroy motivation (amotivational syndrome), interfere with memory, because loss of concentration and gradually affects self-esteem. Kids often say it makes them feel “lazy” or “dumb.” Grades drop and ambitions disappear.
Memory impairment poses is a serious consequence of chronic or long-term use of marijuana, and these effects can be experienced long after marijuana use is suspended.
One study found difficulties in verbal story memory, along with impairments in learning and working memory for up to six weeks after cessation of use. Another study found that long term heavy cannabis users show impairments in memory and attention that endure beyond the period of intoxication and worsen with increasing years of regular cannabis use.
Research shows that adolescents who smoke marijuana on weekends only, over a two-year period, are nearly six times more likely to drop out of school than non smokers, more than three times less likely to enter college than non smokers, and more than four times less likely to earn a college degree. Whether marijuana causes this is unknown but we do know there are strong effects on learning and motivation.
Loss of IQ points
Marijuana use results in cognitive deficits. A stunning landmark 2012 longitudinal 25-year study in New Zealand of 1,037 subjects showed on average an eight-point decline in IQ. Those who used marijuana persistently and heavily by age 18 and into adulthood experienced the drop at age 38. This drop is irreversible.
The IQ loss did not happen with adults: those who used marijuana frequently after age 18 did not experience a drop in IQ. The results were later re-examined (after being criticized for failing to control for socioeconomic status) and it was definitively concluded that the decline in IQ could not be attributed to socioeconomic factors alone.
Even Casual Use in Young Adults is Linked to Brain Abnormalities
A 2014 study by Northwestern University Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School showed that even those young adults (ages 18 to 25) who were not heavy or chronic users (some using once or twice a week) showed significant abnormalities in two key brain regions (the amygdala and nucleus accumbens). These regions are important in emotion and motivation and are also associated with addiction.
The more joints a person smoked, the more abnormal the shape, volume and density of grey matter (i.e., where most cells are located in brain tissue) in the brain regions according to MRI images. This is the first study that has been funded to research the effects of causal versus heavy use of marijuana by teens.
Adverse Socioeconomic Consequences
A recent study conducted by an international team of researchers led by UC Davis and Duke epidemiologists concluded that people who use marijuana end up with lower paying, less skilled and less prestigious jobs and experience more financial, work-related and relationship problems. Regular marijuana users ended up in a lower social class than their parents. The study looked at 947 of the participants in the 2012 New Zealand study, discussed above, who were observed over a 25-year period.
Note that these users experienced more financial difficulties than those who were alcohol dependent. The study also found that the financial, work and relationship difficulties worsened as the number of years of regular cannabis use progressed.
These issues did not arise because of prosecution or criminal records. The study observed more antisocial behavior in both work and relationships. It also found lower motivation to achieve as well as abuse of alcohol and harder drugs. The study found these problems began in adolescence, with antisocial behavior and depression and higher levels of impulsivity.
Mental Illness Risks Include Psychotic Symptoms and Schizophrenia
Numerous studies have found that marijuana can trigger mental illnesses or worsen underlying conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, paranoia, psychotic breaks and schizophrenia. Suicidal thoughts can also be a by-product. Studies show that marijuana increases the risks of occurrence of these mental illnesses, which are even more pronounced in those with a family history.
A wide array of studies show that the more chronic the marijuana use and the earlier in life that use begins, the greater one’s chances are of developing psychosis typified by delusional thinking or experiencing the onset of schizophrenia, characterized by a breakdown in thought processes. Even if adolescents and teens don’t become dependent (and the majority do not), it’s the alteration of brain structure and function that is at the root of mental health problems later in life.
Treatment centers such as the local Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services report they are seeing more and more teens experiencing psychotic breaks.
Physical Health Effects of Marijuana.
Studies show that marijuana use is associated with accidents and injuries, bronchitis, acute cardiovascular events, gastrointestinal issues, and possibly infectious diseases and cancer. With the much higher THC levels in today’s marijuana, these physical health effects are likely to worsen.
Respiratory System. Marijuana smoke contains many more chemicals than tobacco smoke. The American Lung Association states on its website that marijuana smoke “contains a greater amount of carcinogens than tobacco smoke. In addition, marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, further increasing the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke.” A wealth of medical study backs up these contentions.
New Zealand scientists determined that smoking one joint of marijuana was comparable to the effects on airflow obstruction of between two and one half and five tobacco cigarettes. Marijuana smokers hold their breath about four times longer than cigarette smokers, allowing more time for extra fine particles to deposit in the lungs.
Moreover, marijuana is packed more loosely than tobacco so there is less filtration and more particles are inhaled. Respiratory symptoms found by Yale researchers include shortness of breath, frequent wheezing, frequent phlegm and chronic bronchitis. UCLA scientists found additional effects including a potential predisposition to the development of respiratory malignancy as a result of carcinogens.
Cardiovascular System. Within minutes of inhaling marijuana fumes, a person’s heart rate increases and can double, blood vessels expand, the eyes redden and a variety of impacts on the heart and cardiovascular systems can occur.
Overdoses from Dabbing. There have been reported overdoses from passing out after dabbing. Users can inhale so much concentrated smoke at once that they pass out.
Link to Cancer. Whether smoking marijuana is a trigger for causing cancer, especially lung cancer, remains an open question. More research is needed, which is mixed on this issue. However, the evidence is increasingly tilting toward the conclusion that marijuana use can be a risk factor.
People with preexisting immune system deficiencies (for example resulting from AIDS or chemotherapy) can be more susceptible to developing cancer or a recurrence of cancer because of an enzyme that marijuana smoke contains. Another toxic chemical in marijuana smoke was found to damage a person’s DNA and increase their risk for developing cancer, according to a 2009 study by British scientists.
Combining Marijuana with Alcohol and Other Drugs
Teens often combine marijuana with hard alcohol and sometimes with pills from Molly (Ecstasy) to Xanax. The dangers are obvious. Deaths are not uncommon. In Marin, young adults have been dying from a combination of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs at an alarming rate. See September 2016 Marin Magazine article entitled “A Dangerous Game” at http://www.marinmagazine.com/.
Effect of Marijuana on Driving
Driving under the influence of marijuana is unsafe. Marijuana affects reaction time, short-term memory, hand-eye coordination, concentration and perception of time and distance. Studies show that drivers who used marijuana followed cars too closely (a sign of spatial distortion) and swerve in and out of lanes of traffic.
Yet a common misperception is that it is safe to drive high because stoned drivers are slower. Alarming rates of teen “designated drivers” abstain from alcohol but not from marijuana because of this erroneous perception. See Redwood Bark (student run newspaper) article at http://redwoodbark.org/2011/09/29/marijuana-impairs-drivers-but-does-it-endanger-them/.
In Oregon, nearly half of current marijuana using 11th graders who drive say they drove within three hours of using the drug.
ATTEND OCTOBER 16TH EVENT, "TEENS AND THC: THE HIGHS AND LOWS IN 2018". This program will feature Dr. Jennifer Golick, MFT of Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services. Sponsored by Being Adept, Dr. Golick will give parents concrete tools to deal with the changing environment around marijuana legalization and adolescent use. Both parents and adolescents are encouraged to attend this special event to learn how marijuana has changed over the last decade with its high THC potencies, the impact it has on the developing adolescent brain and how to discuss this as a family. 6:30-8:00 pm at Bel Aire Elementary School in Tiburon.
VIEW NOVEMBER 28, 2017 PARENT ED EVENT “MARIJUANA IS LEGAL: NOW WHAT?" This was an excellent program featuring Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer, Don Carney, Director of Marin Youth Court, Dr. Michael Genovese, Addiction Specialist and Captain Hamid Khalili, Central Marin Police Authority. The speakers were introduced by Liz Seabury, Principal of Drake High School. It is well worth a viewing at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmNib22pgb0. Highly recommended for teens as well.
With final exams behind them and after spending extended amounts of “family time” during the holidays, teens will be itching to go out! A little extra parental vigilance will go a long way – as well saying “no” to situations about which you don’t feel comfortable.
Principals from our high schools have emailed parents in the past about holiday celebrations, given Marin’s high rates of binge drinking by both teens and adults. Redwood's Principal’s letter is at http://www.tamdistrict.org/cms/lib8/CA01000875/Centricity/Domain/146/HolidayCelebrationsLtr.pdf. Marin Catholic’s letter is at http://www.marincatholic.org/podium/push/default.aspx?i=54546&s=612&snd=befc8ef9-c27a-498b-8076-2c50e2495200
“Just Say No” to Party Buses. Party Buses are especially popular on New Year’s Eve. They can be even more conducive to binge drinking other drug use and risky behavior than unsupervised parties. Although several deaths led to legislation in California regulating party buses effective in 2013, such as including chaperones at least 25 years old, some bus drivers ignore these requirements and unfortunate incidents continue to occur.
Two summers ago, police intercepted a typical party bus in Marin loaded with young teens and copious “jaw dropping” amounts of hard alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs. This party bus incident was not an isolated one but rather was typical. Alcohol and other drugs are smuggled into party buses as wrapped gifts, water bottles, plastic flasks attached to underwear or concealed under clothing and in backpacks and purses.
Be Wary of Large Parties, Parties with Older Teens and Sleepovers. Freshmen parents in particular should say “not yet” to large parties. For sleepovers, use the BTI Parent List to reach out to other parents! And continue to use the BTI Parent List for parties attended by older teens, even if you have lost control over where they go once they drive. An excellent read is “Where’s The Party?” by Jonathan Scott and Kelly Townsend, which has practical tips for what to do when your teen goes to a party and how to host one.
Set a Reasonable Curfew and Check-Ins. Establish clear rules for the evening in advance, including check-ins, especially if a party or a sleepover is part of the plan. Also know what your teen is doing during the day, as many parents will be working outside of the home. Be sure an adult is present and supervising.
Don’t Place Absolute Trust in Designated Drivers! California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) results from 2015-16 show that too many so-called designated drivers are simply less drunk or high than their passengers. In Marin County, 31% of 11th graders admitted to either driving in a car when they had been drinking or being a passenger in a car with a driver who had been drinking.
Say “Not Yet” or Keep Track of Uber rides. Using Uber has become increasingly popular with adults and teens alike. While certainly safer than driving drunk or drugged, Uber rides enable extreme levels of drinking and other drug use. Uber drives also enable teens to go wherever they want (such as to large parties or clubs in the city) before they are able to drive. Accordingly, don’t allow Uber rides for younger teens without drivers licenses whenever you can be driving them – even if using Uber is more convenient. For older teens, keep track of how frequently your teen is using Uber. If its frequent, alarm bells should be ringing.
Check for Hidden Stashes and Fake IDs. Periodically check for hidden alcohol a well as “fake id’s”, all of which can be found in bedrooms, cars and wallets. Fake Ids are easy to obtain online and usually come in pairs. If you find one and destroy it, chances are a second one is around.
“Teen Proof” Your Home. Reduce easy access to alcohol by locking up, otherwise securing or keeping track of any alcohol.
Be Mindful about Your Own Use. Model responsibility and moderation in your own behavior. Consider limiting your alcohol intake when around your teens and younger children. A glass or two with a meal isn’t a parenting crime. Yet, when hosting or attending a child-related event, keep it alcohol free. Never drive while under the influence. Remember that while your teens may pretend not to hear you – they are listening and are watching your actions!
It is no surprise that our high rates of teen drinking – including binge drinking - mirror high rates in our adult use. Almost one in four adults report binge drinking in the last 30 days. According to a statewide annual survey, for five years in a row, Marin County ranks as the number one healthiest county among 56 counties indicators – with the exception of “excessive drinking” anddeaths from drug overdoses. In those two categories, Marin ranked below most California counties. As an opinion piece in the Marin IJ entitled “Dear Marin: You’re Drunk” stated, “Marin likes to drink. A lot”. See http://www.marinij.com/article/NO/20160919/FEATURES/160919782
In addition to social host citations discussed below, teens can suffer legal consequences for underage possession, consumption, purchase of alcohol or public intoxication under “minor in possession”, “open container” and other laws. These consequences can be in the form of infractions or misdemeanors. Misdemeanors potentially have to be disclosed in college applications.
Additionally, teens under the age of 21 cannot drive with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01% or higher. Even if teens are nowhere near a car, they still can have their driver’s licenses suspended, restricted or delayed for up to one year for each offense related to the possession, consumption or purchase of alcohol.
DUI'S. Over the holiday period, there will be an increased presence of law enforcement on highways and streets with checkpoints coordinated by local DUI Task Forces. Beyond holiday periods, CHP and other local police departments have zero tolerance for driving under the influence. CHP also strictly enforces an 11 pm curfew for drivers with “provisional” driver’s licenses (during the first year) as well as restrictions on new drivers driving other teens.
Social Host Citations Involving Alcohol/Drugs and Teens. Social Host Ordinances impose liability on homeowners who host gatherings with alcohol, marijuana and other controlled substances that are attended by minors. Depending on the jurisdiction, they may also be levied against teens. Fines range from $750 to $2,500. Marin County and a growing number of local jurisdictions such as Mill Valley and Novato now include marijuana and other controlled substances as well as alcohol/drug use on party buses. In addition to payment of a fine, these jurisdictions require teens and adults to attend a restorative justice program.
Recently the Central Marin Police Authority, which has jurisdiction over the towns of Larkspur, Corte Madera and San Anselmo instituted a change in policy which treats violations of Social Host Ordinances as criminal misdemeanors.
Alcohol is the most widely used drug in the U.S. and is so common and accepted in our society that most people don’t think of it as a drug. Likewise, it is the number one drug of choice among American teens. Kids use alcohol to get drunk - often very drunk. When teens consume alcohol, few do so wisely and limit themselves to one social drink. There is generally no such thing as responsible teen drinking of alcohol. “Moderate”, “careful” and “prudent” do not typically describe adolescent drinking. They just aren't wired that way.
Today’s teen drinking is often not about chugging a few beers or gulping down sweet wine, as was the case back in our day. Instead, teens often take multiple shots or swigs from “handles” of hard liquor such as vodka, bourbon, whiskey, gin and scotch.
Some teens drink to the point of vomiting or passing or “blacking” out. Blackouts are a temporary loss of memory resulting from binge drinking. Adolescents seem more prone to blackouts than adults. Blackouts can lead to problems such as unintended or unwanted sexual activity, injury or death. Emergency Room transports are not uncommon among teens these days. An excellent New York Times article describes this phenomenon on college campuses at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/19/opinion/drinking-to-blackout.html.
Binge drinking. According to the most recent 2015-16 California Healthy Kids Survey results, in Marin County, 24% of public school 11th graders have consumed five or more drinks in a few hours in the past 30 days. In the Tamalpais Union HS District, this binge drinking number is significantly higher than the County averages at 34%. Additionally, 40% of Marin County public school 11th graders and 51% of Tam District 11th graders report being "very drunk or sick after drinking alcohol" in their lifetime.
Binge Drinking is defined for boys as consuming five or more drinks and for girls four or more drinks in about two hours. More than 90% of the alcohol consumed by teens is done by binge drinking. Binge drinking is responsible for over half of the 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year from alcohol. Teens who binge drink are three times more likely to binge drink as adults.
Today’s teen drinking too often results in deaths, especially when alcohol is mixed with prescription pills or other drugs. In Marin, a teen or young adult has died of alcohol or other drugs at an alarming rate of every two to four weeks for the past several years. In 2012-13, the rate was every two weeks and this didn’t include those Marin teens and young adults who died while away at college or those who had no toxicology results.
Over the past 15 years, drug related ER visits and deaths in Marin have tripled. For this reason, Marin County’s Public Health Officer, Matt Willis, who has a child at Drake H.S., has called teen alcohol and other drug use in Marin “an ongoing public health crisis.” See “A Dangerous Game” at http://www.marinmagazine.com/September-2016/Dangerous-Game/
Large Parties and Party Buses. Almost 75% of teen drinkers drink at parties hosted by other teens. Some of these parties occur with adults looking the other way while teens drink or smoke; others occur when parents go away for the night or weekend and the teens then stage an epic bash. Or they are the rolling parties on wheels - party buses. Parties are not inherently “bad” - but the alcohol and other drugs typically present when unsupervised parties occur lead to extremely risky behavior.
Drinking Games. Drinking games such as Beer Pong (also called Beirut), Flip Cup, Screw the Dealer, Power Hour and Edward Fortyhands are popular games and lead to excessive drinking among teens.
Types of Alcohol Specifically Marketed to Teens. “Alcopops” are sweet, teen friendly drinks such as Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Breezer and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. They are marketed to teens and have more alcohol than beer. Flavored ciders and alcoholic ginger beers also have gained in popularity. Teens often mix hard liquor with soda, juice or other beverages that disguise the smell and taste of the alcohol. Clear liquor such as vodka are often poured into water bottles to escape detection.
Caffeinated Alcohol Beverages and Mixing Alcohol with Energy Drinks. Caffeinated alcohol beverages may be malt liquor or distilled spirits and usually have higher alcohol content than beer. An example used to be Four Loko which was marketed to teens until it was banned in several states and by the the FDA. Four Loko was then reintroduced without caffeine and no longer marketed as an energy drink but is now flavored with lemonade, fruit punch and watermelon flavors.
More common these days is the use of energy drinks as chasers or mixers for hard liquor. An example is Red Bull. Energy drinks typically contain caffeine, other plant based stimulants, simple sugars and other additives. Called a “wide awake drunk”, the caffeine rush makes the drinker look and feel more balanced and coordinated so they don’t believe they are drunk. The stimulants create a “sobering effect” which makes the drinker feel as if they can drink more and stay out all night. Energy drinks essentially mask the depressive effects of alcohol and signs of inebriation.
Energy and alcohol drinkers are three times more likely to binge drink, four times more likely to think they can drive, and twice more likely to report riding with a driver who was under the influence or being taken advantage of sexually. Mixing alcohol with energy drinks causes more dehydration, alcohol poisoning, ER visits and hospitalizations, is more addictive and results in adolescent brain damage.
Delay, Delay, Delay! Not every teen who drinks is going to become an alcoholic or get rushed to the ER. Many parents used alcohol as teens and came out just fine, and many still use alcohol in responsible and controlled ways. A majority of teens follow the same pattern. Yet the younger a person starts using alcohol, the more likely abuse or addiction will develop. Here are the statistics: 90% of alcohol and drug addictions start in the teen years. Youth who start drinking before age 15 years are SIX times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years. The percentage of teenage abuse of alcohol increases by nearly 50% between the ages of 14 and 18, and one out of 13 teens will get into trouble with alcohol abuse or become addicted later in life.
On Tue., Nov. 28, The Coalition Connection sponsored an event at Drake High School titled "Marijuana is Legal: Now What?. If you were unable to attend the event, you may access the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmNib22pgb0
This panel discussion included local experts such as Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer, Don Carney, YMCA Youth Court Director, Dr. Genovese, Addiction Specialist and Captain Hamid Kahili from Central Marin Police Authority.
Watch to learn what to expect from legalization of marijuana.
While you may not want to be a hovering parent, now is the time to "lean in", especially during the freshman and sophomore years. Below are tips from past newsletters that bear repeating. Note that "one size does not fit all" and every family has their own values and dynamics.. Accordingly, these are tips to pick and choose from, depending on your teen's age, temperament, maturity level and proven trustworthiness - and your own parenting style and priorities.
ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG USE DURING TRANSITIONAL PERIODS
Research has shown that the highest risk periods for alcohol and other drug use among youth are during major transitions in teen lives, including entering high school. At this time, teens face social, emotional and educational challenges and are exposed to greater availability of drugs, drug users and social activities involving alcohol and other drugs. Source: www.drugabuse.gov. What should parents do and not do? Read on!
ALLOWING TEENS TO USE SUBSTANCES AT HOME
Some parents believe that it is better to allow our teens to drink "under their roof" in order to stay "safe" or teach them how to drink responsibly. The research shows otherwise. While this may be well intentioned and achieve these goals in the short term, the research shows these actions are counterproductive in the long term.
An NIH paper published in July 2014 examined 22 studies on the issue of parents providing alcohol for youth or providing a place to drink. The paper concluded that "there is little research evidence to support the notion that it is even possible to 'teach children to drink alcohol responsibly.'".
The paper quoted three studies in 2004, 2010 and 2012 and found that "parents might believe they are keeping their children and their children's friends safe by allowing them to drink in their home. This is not the case. Adolescents who attend parties where parents supply alcohol are at increased risk for heavy episodic drinking and related problems and drinking and driving". See http://ncbi.nim.nh.gov/pubmed/24988258.
The same also applies to other drug use. Simply put, the premise that parents are keeping their teens safe when they provide a place to party and look the other way, albeit well-intentioned, is a false one.
In the book "Where's the Party" by Jonathan Scott, Chapter 2.1 entitled "When Your Child Goes to Parties" contains specific guidance on the better approach. Chapter 14 of "Getting to Calm" by Laura Kastner also provides practical guidance.
Remember, our actions affect other teens, not just our own. We are in this together and it takes a village to protect our teens.
SOCIAL HOST ORDINANCES
Not only is it ill advised to allow teens to drink alcohol or use other drugs at home but it is also illegal. Local Social Host Ordinances that exist in our communities hold an adult and/or minor liable for fines of $750 and up for underage parties involving alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. Adults are strictly responsible - whether home or not or whether they have knowledge or not. And liability may result if as few as two or more minors (the number depends on the jurisdiction) are present consuming alcohol or controlled substances.
Please weigh in on Marijuana Retail Stores. In the wake of legalization in California of recreational marijuana legalization, local jurisdictions are considering ways to regulate marijuana sales and cultivation in their communities. The time for input is now!
The Coalition Connection, which consists of two community coalitions in the Ross Valley and the Twin Cities areas seeking to reduce underage substance use, is urging a one-year moratorium on establishing new medical or recreational retail stores. This will allow for more data to help our communities carefully weigh the positive and negative impacts of marijuana businesses in our towns. For more information, email email@example.com.
Larkspur, San Anselmo and Fairfax are three towns considering allowing marijuana retail stores in the near future. Should you wish to weigh in on this matter, email your Council Members or attend Council Meetings and speak during Open Comment Sessions.
The next Larkspur City Council meetings are on Wednesday, October 4th and 18th at 6:30 pm at the City Council Chambers, 400 Magnolia Avenue. For more information go to http://www.ci.larkspur.ca.us/288/Agendas-and-Minutes.
San Anselmo Town Council meetings Tuesdays at Town Council Chambers, 535 San Anselmo Avenue. For notifications of San Anselmo Town Council meetings, go to http://townofsananselmo.org.
The next Fairfax Town Council meeting is Wednesday, October 4th at 7 pm at the Women's Club, 46 Park Road. For notice of future Fairfax Town Council meetings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One factor to take into account is whether marijuana retail outlets should be in proximity to places frequented by children. Exposure through proximity increases normalization and decreases the perception of harm - and that leads to increased usage of marijuana among adolescents and teens.