Sunday, June 15, 2014

The School Counselor's Role in Educating Students About Recreational Drug Use

Sunday, June 15, 2014


History of Recreational Drug Use

In 1987, the Swiss government made a bold and unheard of decision to allow illegal drug use in one of its most popular parks called the Platzspitz.  The Platzspitz was a beautiful park that has existed in Zurich since the Middle Ages, however, it had been overrun by heroin addicts in the late 1980s. To curtail the drug problem from spreading outside of the park, the government decided to outlaw its police force from entering the park to arrest drug users and dealers. On any given day, there were over 20,000 drug users in the park and the park's beauty was littered with vomit, human feces, bloody cotton balls, used needles, and other types of filth.  From 1987-1992, the Platzspitz became known to the world as Needle Park. The majority of the inhabitants of the park were not residents of Switzerland, but traveled to Zurich to legally feed their addiction. Finally fed up with increased crime, drug related deaths, prostitution, and the drug tourism, the city government closed the park to drug users.  Today, the Platzspitz is back to its natural state of beauty and a friendly place for families to visit.

Needle Park, Zurich Switzerland






Coffee Shop in Amsterdam








Recreational Drug Use in Europe

Another country that has not legalized drug, but is tolerant of the use of "soft drugs" is Holland. Since 1976, causal marijuana use has held both a illegal and legal status in Dutch society (the supply side is legal while the production side is illegal). In addition, Holland has a reputation of being the key entry point of drugs for the continent of Europe.  Currently, Dutch coffee shops are allowed to sell cannabis (acquired by shadowy means) that must meet certain government regulations.  Here are the requirements that coffee shops must meet in order to sell their cannabis:
1. Coffee shops are not allowed to sell more than 5 grams/day to any individual.
2. Coffee shops are limited to what level of potency they can sell.
3. Coffee shops cannot sell to minors under the age of 18.
4. Coffee shops must check the IDs of all customers to make sure they meet residency requirements (Dutch citizen).
5. Coffee shops may not sell alcoholic beverages to reduce criminal behavior.

The Dutch society has been split over the idea of marijuana legalization due to the negative impact of drug tourism.  Another key to keeping the novelty of pot use down in Holland is the prohibition of advertising and glamorizing its use to adolscents.

Sources:
Dutch Drug Policy
CBS News-Inside Holland's Half Baked Pot Policy

Recreational Drug Use in the United States

Many countries are changing their policies about marijuana use; particularly the US.  Recently, the states of Washington and Colorado have made the recreational use of marijuana legal.  Among all the hype about the economic stimulus and benefits of decriminalization, there has been little conversation around the impact on
the students in these states. Both the mayor of Denver and the governor of Colorado know there will be problems in their state.  In an interview in The Liberty Voice, Governor Hickenlooper urged states considering legalization not to overlook the unintended consequences of legalizing something that is really not good for the human body.



Unintended Consequences of Legalization:

1.  Increased marijuana use by young people.
The use of marijuana by teens has been on the rise since the mid-2000s. The rise in use is reflective of  the changing perceptions and values in our culture.  Many young people today see marijuana as a "safe drug" due to the legalization of marijuana and the conversations around the benefits of marijuana for medical use.



Source:
High School Marijuana Trends

The following info graphics show the increased use of marijuana by teens since legalization in Colorado.


Early Initiation of Substance Use) “When initiation of substance use occurs in preadolescence or early in adolescence, the risk of addiction is magnified.8 CASA’s analysis of national data finds that individuals‡ who first used any addictive substance before age 15 are six and a half times as likely to have a substance use disorder as those who did not use any addictive substance until age 21 or older (28.1 percent vs. 4.3 percent).”
Source: 
"Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem," The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (New York, NY: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, June 2011), p. 38
http://www.casacolumbia.org/addiction-research/reports/adolescent-substa...
- See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Marijuana#Prevalence




















Marijuana Use in Denver Compared to the United States




















2. Today's Marijuana Is More Potent
 Shelia Polk points out the increased addictive nature of today's marijuana.  Many conversations have been around the potency of marijuana based on 1970s potency levels; however, today's THC levels have increased from 3% to 15%. This increase in potency has a negative impact on the developing brain in terms memory, judgment, and clarity of thought. High potency marijuana (i.e. Connie Chung) has been found to contribute to ADD, aggression, depression, and anxiety in children.

Sources: 
Science Daily
 Marijuana's Addictive Potential

3. Early use of marijuana in adolescence can lead to higher addiction levels and lower IQ levels
 Marijuana use has been found to decrease IQ rates by eight points.  Also, if marijuana use begins at an earlier age, there is a greater risk that the child will become addicted faster.

Source:
Adolescent Pot Use Leaves Lasting Mental Deficits; Developing Brain Susceptible to Lasting Damage from Exposure to Marijuana

4. Marijuana use can lead to increased traffic accidents and death in adolescence
 A review of nine studies that looked at the relationship between marijuana use and driving impairment found that within three hours after consuming marijuana an auto crash that results in serious injury or death doubles.  In addition, researchers found that marijuana can be detected in the blood during a month of abstinence.  See the Dutch educational video below on how marijuana impacts the body.

Sources:
Cannabis Use Doubles Chances of Vehicle Crash, Review Finds Researchers 
New Study Shows Cannabis Effects On Driving Skills
Cannabis Impact on the Body

How Can Educators Protect Children if  Recreational Marijuana is Legalized in Your State?
(Marijuana Potency) "Although marijuana grown in the United States was once considered inferior because of a low concentration of THC, advancements in plant selection and cultivation have resulted in higher THC-containing domestic marijuana. In 1974, the average THC content of illicit marijuana was less than one percent. Today most commercial grade marijuana from Mexico/Columbia and domestic outdoor cultivated marijuana has an average THC content of about 4 to 6 percent. Between 1998 and 2002, NIDA-sponsored Marijuana Potency Monitoring System (MPMP) analyzed 4,603 domestic samples. Of those samples, 379 tested over 15 percent THC, 69 samples tested between 20 and 25 percent THC and four samples tested over 25 percent THC."
Source: 
Lyman, Michael "Practical Drug Enforcement, Third Edition" CRC Press (Boca Raton, FL: 2007), p. 74.
http://mapinc.org/url/FTKXD890
- See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Marijuana#Prevalence
(Marijuana Potency) "Although marijuana grown in the United States was once considered inferior because of a low concentration of THC, advancements in plant selection and cultivation have resulted in higher THC-containing domestic marijuana. In 1974, the average THC content of illicit marijuana was less than one percent. Today most commercial grade marijuana from Mexico/Columbia and domestic outdoor cultivated marijuana has an average THC content of about 4 to 6 percent. Between 1998 and 2002, NIDA-sponsored Marijuana Potency Monitoring System (MPMP) analyzed 4,603 domestic samples. Of those samples, 379 tested over 15 percent THC, 69 samples tested between 20 and 25 percent THC and four samples tested over 25 percent THC."
Source: 
Lyman, Michael "Practical Drug Enforcement, Third Edition" CRC Press (Boca Raton, FL: 2007), p. 74.
http://mapinc.org/url/FTKXD890
- See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Marijuana#Prevalence
  • Educators should support the No Product Placements sponsorships, point-of-purchase marketing, or depictions in entertainment venues. The American Academy of Pediatrics is adamant that the exposure of adolescents and children to drinking and smoking in television programs and movies should be greatly reduced.  Researchers found that  exposure is a key factor in persuading teenagers to start smoking, start drinking, and to binge drink.  Look at the statistics:
          Exposure in media may account for up to half of young teenagers initiating tobacco use.

          In 2009 more than half of PG-13 rated films contained tobacco use.

         Adolescents can see alcohol use every 14 minutes on MTV.

         Thirty-eight of the 40 highest grossing movies contain alcohol use.

          Drinking is frequently depicted as normal behavior for teenagers. 
  • Like tobacco and alcohol, organizations like SADD, Teens in the Driver's Seat, NOYS, and MADD should help support bills regarding No Drugged Driving-a ban on driving with marijuana in the systems of drivers or passengers. 
  • School districts should ban No Drugged Employees or Students (people coming to work or school with marijuana in their systems). Each state is concerned about the effectiveness of its schools in educating students. By allowing high students and teachers to come to school will greatly diminish the education of our students by causing increased absenteeism, increased safety concerns, and lowered productivity. In a meta analysis of 48 studies, cannabis use was found to be associated with lower grades, higher absenteeism, memory loss, and school drop out. In addition, heavy cannabis users reported college completion, lower salaries, decreased satisfaction in their personal and social lives, and more work related accidents.
          Source:
          How Does Marijuana Use Affect School-Work-Social Life

  • States should continue to apply Smoke-Free Laws at government properties, like schools. Marijuana use should be banned where tobacco smoking is banned. 
See the complete list of the 12 provisions and their rationales 12 Provisions to Protect Children if Marijuana is Legalized 

As a school counselor, we have a tremendous role to play in educating students, parents, and staff members about the reality of recreational marijuana use by our students and the long range consequences. Staying out of the political and economic debates, we can impact the attitudes and perceptions of the next generation of students by providing research based drug education.  I often think of the success of tobacco education and how those educational campaigns have made a huge impact on the perceptions and behaviors of teens when choosing to smoke or to not smoke.  Although I cannot predict that recreational marijuana will become legal in your state, I believe the issue will be up for vote in more states in 2016. As school counselors, we must be educated about cannabis use and have an elevator speech regarding our stance no matter what the trend of public opinion. 

Here is an example of an elevator speech about substance use:





To help you in educating students, consider instituting these organizations or groups in your school.

Students Against Destructive Decisions  







 Teens in the Driver's Seat









Peer Education and Peer Helping







Narconon Peer Leadership Training and Free Resources








 Other Resources for School Counselors on Recreational Drug Use:

The School Counselor's Role With Students At-Risk for Substance Abuse
Drug and Alcohol Resources from San Diego Unified Schools
Preventing Substance Abuse: A Guide for School Counselors
NIDA Teen Drug Facts
Marijuana Legalization
DrugAbuse.gov
Wake Forest School of Medicine
Monitoring the Future
CDC-Youth Risk Behavior Survey
Bureau of Justice Statistics
Samsha
Alcohol, Tobacco, and other Drugs Blog