Pubdate: Sat, 10 May 2008
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2008 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Cheryl Wetzstein
Referenced: The 'new research'
Bookmark: (Marijuana)


Depressed teens who retreat into marijuana may be making their 
conditions worse, national anti-drug abuse leaders said yesterday, 
citing new research about brain function and mental illness.

"The short message is marijuana is not safe and it's not a solution 
for depression," said John P. Walters, director of the White House 
Office of National Drug Control Policy.

New research is implicating marijuana as a risk factor for adolescent 
mental health problems, amplifying pre-existing depression in some 
teens and triggering it in others, Mr. Walters said at a National 
Press Club yesterday.

There's also evidence that elements of marijuana can linger in 
certain parts of the brain, leading to impaired memory and learning, 
said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Using marijuana is "not going to help anything," she said. "It will 
make life much worse."

After the press conference, a Michigan teen spoke with reporters 
about her battle with pot.

When she first tried it at age 15, "I liked the feeling," said Sonia, 
now 18, who asked that her last name not be printed. But the habit, 
which she sustained via friends who grew marijuana or sold it in 
suburban neighborhoods, led her to lose interest in everything but 
hanging out with friends.

The pretty blonde, who has also had bouts of depression, is now at 
the Pathway Family Center treatment program in Southfield, Mich. 
"It's taken time, but I've figured out that I want to live a life 
that is productive," Sonia said, adding she expects to graduate from 
high school soon.

When Sonia's mother, Lily, was asked what prompted her and her 
husband to put Sonia into treatment, the mother's eyes instantly 
welled with tears.

"She had a plan to take her life," she said softly.

Dr. Drew Pinsky, who hosts VH1's "Celebrity Rehab," a new reality 
show on overcoming addiction, said he and others who work in 
addiction medicine are not trying to create another "Reefer Madness" 
message. The goal is to clarify that the problems surrounding 
marijuana "are not mysterious; they are overwhelming and obvious," he said.

"The benign quality of marijuana -- which has been an assumption from 
the '60s -- is now seriously questioned by researchers, scientists 
and doctors," said Dr. Larry Greenhill, president-elect of the 
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

However, organizations that seek decriminalization of marijuana are 
not persuaded. Marijuana certainly shouldn't be used by children, 
said Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project.

But it has many medicinal uses and should be "treated like beer, wine 
and liquor," he said, adding: "It's very important to give out 
accurate information, not exaggerated scare stories." 
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