Talk early, talk often with kids about drugs, alcohol

While popular opinion and legal policies around marijuana have changed rapidly in recent years, misunderstandings about the potential impacts of this drug persist. The Sherburne County Substance Use Prevention Coalition is working to create awareness of issues surrounding youth marijuana use using their “Talk Early, Talk Often” campaign. Their marijuana prevention initiatives target environmental factors that influence drug use, such as policies and regulations, cultural norms, and youth access. Despite increasing public acceptance, marijuana use does have negative consequences.

Here are some marijuana myths versus truths, from Hazelden.
•Myth: Marijuana is not addictive.
•Truth: It is estimated that 9 percent of marijuana-using adults and 17 percent of those who start using marijuana in their teens will become addicted to it.
•Myth: Marijuana is not harmful.
•Truth: Marijuana is much stronger today than it was in the past. Marijuana use impairs cognitive functioning and motor skills and can result in poor motivation and social withdrawal.
•Myth: Because marijuana is legal, it must be fairly safe.
•Truth: Many legal drugs such as tobacco, alcohol and opioids are harmful, and marijuana is no different. Just because something is legal does not mean it is safe.

After alcohol and tobacco, marijuana is the most prevalent psychoactive drug used in the United States. In 2016, approximately 21 percent of Sherburne County high school juniors reported past 30-day marijuana use on the Minnesota Student Survey, which was an increase of nearly 6 percent from 2013. The same year also saw decreases in perceived harm and less disapproval of use among teens.

Marijuana use carries real risks for our youth, just as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs do. It is important that we provide accurate facts to support healthy decision-making about any drug use. Parents are the most powerful influence in a child’s life. Talk early and often about the risks, set clear rules against drug use, and enforce reasonable consequences for breaking the rules. Learn more at www.sherburnesupcoalition.org. — The Sherburne County Substance Use Prevention Coalition
(Editor’s note: The coalition is a community-focused organization on a mission to prevent substance use among youth by promoting safe and healthy choices.)