Dear Straight Talk: I'm in 8th grade and my best friends are starting to smoke weed. One is getting it from his parent's supply and they are doctors. I don't want to smoke it but they say everyone does it and our parents did, too, and there is nothing harmful about it. What do you make of their claims? — "James," Lodi, Calif.
Editor's Note: The Dunedin Study followed over 1000 New Zealand youths born in 1972, testing them starting at age 13 before any had started smoking pot, and concluding the study when they were 38. The study ruled out changes in IQ that might be due to educational differences, alcohol and other drugs. Those who smoked four times a week starting as teens showed an average 8-point decline in IQ that didn't rebound after they quit as adults.
This has huge ramifications for our schools, both public and private. With fewer adolescents believing that pot use is harmful, use has been driven younger and younger, into our middle schools. Daily use among teens is at a 30-year peak. A 2011 survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland, found that about 6 percent of 12th graders smoked pot 20 or more times in the 30 days before the survey. Almost half had tried pot at least once.
According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse's 2012 annual back-to-school survey, teens who say their parents are more laid back about drug use are more likely to drink or use drugs. And teens who are left alone overnight (almost 30 percent of those surveyed) are almost twice as likely to drink or use pot, and three times more likely to use tobacco, than kids with parents home. About 60 percent of those surveyed described their schools (both public and private) as "drug-infected."
Parents need to be more engaged, aware, and set more boundaries — and so do all our schools. The core work is to reduce the stress our infants and young children experience, as it is this trauma that leads to addictive behaviors during adolescence in the first place. —Lauren
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