6 Middle School Parents Talking About Marijuana

Many parents think their middle school child is too young to use marijuana. Next to alcohol, marijuana is the most misused drug among youth. According to published studies funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (universally considered by medical professionals and clinicians as the most reliable and accurate source of information available): Approximately 1 in 7 middle school 8th graders have used marijuana in their lifetimes. Although this number seems very high considering how young these children are, the number more than doubles to 1-3 by the time these children complete middle school. When recent marijuana use is examined, the numbers are not encouraging. 1 in 8 middle school 8th graders report using marijuana in the past month and 8th grade marijuana use has gone up over 85% in the last 2 years! Data on middle schoolers who combine alcohol use with marijuana use on the same occasions to enhance the effects of these drugs are not readily available as they are for older youth, but experts think it ranges between 1 in 5 to 1 in 8 based on reports of eighth-grader binge drinking and marijuana use. This is extremely concerning considering that individuals who combine these drugs experience 2-3 times more accidents, fights, health and legal problems than by using either substance alone. ACTION STEP: Medical and behavioral scientists have shown in numerous studies over the past decade that individuals, young and old, tend to underestimate how much and how often youth use alcohol and marijuana. We provide the statistics to help parents understand

that despite outward appearances, children they know and see regularly are likely to be using alcohol and marijuana. We ask that you do not fall into the trap of thinking their child or friends’ children are too young or that they are not interested. Middle school is not too early for parents to engage in meaningful conversations about the risks of alcohol and marijuana use. It is ideal because it is the time when the rates of use begin and dramatically increase. HOW MARIJUANA WORKS IN THE BODY For starters, parents knowing how marijuana works in the body can be one part of a meaningful conversation. Marijuana contains a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. When THC enters the brain by smoking or vaping marijuana or eating edible marijuana (e.g., candy or brownie), it influences chemical reactions that create positive feelings or a “high”. While this is happening, marijuana is also altering normal communication inside the brain and between the brain and the rest of the body. These alterations can seriously effect movement and coordination., sensation, pain, emotions, judgment, decision-making, memory, and appetite.


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