Pubdate: Mon, 27 Feb 2012
Source: Macomb Daily, The (MI)
Copyright: 2012 The Macomb Daily
Author: Maryanne Kocis Macleod


Marijuana use among youth has risen nationally for the fourth 
straight year, according to the "Monitoring the Future" survey, 
conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University 
of Michigan.

The report, which was released last month in Washington, D.C., is 
considered one of the leading indicators of trends in substance use 
among the nation's teens.

Specifically, the survey found that daily marijuana use is at a 
30-year high among high school seniors, with 6.6 percent using pot 
daily. The report, which surveyed 47,000 teens in grades eight, 10 
and 12, also found that as usage rates increase, perceived risk is in decline.

"Pot has become nearly as accepted as cigarette smoking in our 
society, and the dangers of it are grossly underestimated, especially 
for young people," said Lighthouse Network founder and executive 
director, psychiatrist Karl Benzio, M.D. "As high schoolers smoke 
more pot, they are drawn to other drugs -- drugs with devastating effects."

Lighthouse Network, an addiction and mental health referral program, 
also provides a free 24-hour counseling helpline.

The report also states:

* The proportion of young people using any illicit drug has risen 
steadily in recent years, primarily a result of the increase in marijuana use.

* Fifty percent of high school seniors reported having tried an 
illicit drug at some time.

* Forty percent of (high school) seniors had used one or more drugs 
in the past year.

* Twenty-five percent of seniors had used one or more drugs in the past month.

And while alcohol use and binge drinking have gradually declined, the 
"Monitoring the Future" survey found that use of "synthetic 
marijuana" products, such as K2 and Spice, as well as the drug 
Ecstasy, is growing and can have a harmful and even fatal effect on users.

Since Michigan passed the medical marijuana act in November 2008, the 
local prevention community has noted a significant decrease in youth 
perception of harm, according to Kevin Friedrich, prevention director 
for Fraser-based CARE of Southeastern Michigan.

"(Teens) now think marijuana is a lot less harmful than smoking 
cigarettes," Friedrich said.

Before the Medical Marijuana law was passed, the survey found that 
30.1 percent of ninth and 11th graders in Macomb County reported 
trying marijuana.

According to the "Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth Survey," 
conducted every two years among seventh, ninth and 11th graders, 
before the 2008 law was passed, 30.1 percent of ninth and 11th 
graders surveyed in Macomb County said they had tried marijuana; 16.9 
percent reported using in the last 30 days and 4.4 percent reported 
trying marijuana for the first time before the age of 13.

By 2010, those numbers respectively jumped to 32.7 percent, 19 
percent and 6.2 percent (the last of which represents a 33 percent increase).

The next MIFI report is due out at the end of the current school year.

"I have a feeling the numbers will reflect another increase," Friedrich said.

In Michigan, there is some good news on the prevention front.

The state attorney general's office has drafted a number of 
amendments that address various loopholes in the law.

"The problem is, 75 percent of the Michigan legislature must agree to 
these changes," Friedrich said.

Still, the prevention community is optimistic that change is in the wind.

"The strategy is to roll these out individually, attached to a number 
of different bills," Friedrich said. "We'll have to wait and see what 
happens, but I think there's a good chance for some success."

For example, under the current law, any doctor is able to provide a 
patient with a recommendation for a marijuana card. Currently, there 
are 200,000 people waiting to receive their card, and 71 percent of 
the recommendations have been written by 55 doctors.

The new law would stipulate that a doctor must have an existing and 
continuing relationship with marijuana card holders, and monitor 
their treatment, before they can provide a recommendation.

"When the law was first passed, it was promoted as a treatment for 
people suffering from cancer, glaucoma and debilitating terminal 
disease," Friedrich said. "But less than 3 percent of all medical 
marijuana card holders in Michigan are suffering from cancer and 
other terminal illnesses."

For more information about prevention and substance abuse programs at 
CARE, visit .

For more information on Lighthouse Network, visit or call toll-free 1-877-562-2565.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom