Alarming Facts About Marijuana and Synthetic Marijuana Use in Adolescents

 J. Craig Allen, M.D

J. Craig Allen, M.D, Medical Director at Rushford Medical Center

In a talk presented at Greenwich Town Hall on Wednesday, Dr. J. Craig  Allen, M.D., Medical Director at Rushford, a substance abuse and mental health treatment organization, said parents often assume pot is the same as the pot of their youth.

It’s not – it is much more potent.

THC level in marijuana has increased significantly especially in recent years, and Dr. Allen pointed out that teens are particularly vulnerable to addiction.

ingrid Gillespie

Ingrid Gillespie, Executive Director of Communities 4 Action, introduced Dr. J. Craig Allen in the Cone Room at Greenwich Town Hall on March, 2, 2016 Credit: Leslie Yager

Dr. Allen said  that although teens often perceive pot smoking as low risk, the short term effects include impaired short-term memory, making it hard to learn and retain information, and impaired motor coordination, impacting driving skills and heightening risk of injury.

The long term effects of smoking marijuana include addiction, altered brain development, poor educational outcomes and increased chance of dropping out of school.

Dr. Allen said that if young people can stay away from pot, alcohol and drugs during the the key middle school and high school years, they significantly lower the risk of addiction.

wait21.org

Graphic from Wait 21 website wait21.org

Dopamine, Addiction and Avoiding Addictive Substances Before Age 21
Dr. Allen shared a video from Wait 21, that explained how “natural addictions,” are necessary for survival.  Whenever the brain recognizes something good, like food, it releases dopamine.

Alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other drugs, though proven carcinogens causing cancer and other fatal diseases, fool the brain into releasing dopamine, often times in much greater amounts than the body has ever experienced before.

The body is tricked into thinking these things are more important than food or sleep. At addiction’s worst, a person can think that without the substance they will die.

Research shows that adolescents are at the highest risk of having their survival hierarchy hijacked because their brains ares still growing and developing.

But by 21, the brain is more fully developed and the survival hierarchy less susceptible to getting hijacked.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 10.08.15 AMSynthetic Marijuana – Bring on the Cartoons
Dr. Allen described adolescent substance use is America’s number one public health problem.

Making the situation worse is that synthetic marijuana, K2, is being aggressively marketed to children, often displayed in stores alongside candy and snacks.  Products like K2 and Spice are sold legally in convenience stores and bodegas in most states, or online for just $7 or so per gram.

These synthetic marijuana products are sold in colorful packages, often with cartoon characters on the wrapper, and may be marked herbal incense or potpourri.

Kids consider it fake marijuana because it promises a legal high.

K2 brands on the market include Scooby Snax with a stoned looking Scooby-Doo on the package. Other brands are Green Giant, Spice, Red Magic, Red Dragon, Diesel, Serenity and Blueberry Meditation.

Because the synthetic marijuana isn’t revealed on drug tests,  customers are teenagers, soldiers, people on probation and others subject to drug tests.

Scooby Snax

Product Description: Scooby Doo where are you? Scooby Snax 8 Grams legal medically sealed Incense.. If you try this one you will want another and another and another. Very potent with a strong scent. Good product strongly recommended and ships to every state in the US. This is a k2 alternative that is very effective. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed! Disclaimer: Package says this is not intended for human consumption. Any unlawful consumption of this product is the sole responsibility of the consumer.

Dr. Allen said that with products like K2, “There’s no regulation on what’s put into this the product, and every once in a while there are people who die from it, and you see the news photos of people naked through the streets.”

Synthetic marijuana products are growing in popularity. K2 produces a high that is almost instantaneous. The smoke has chemicals that move from the lungs to the heart and then to the brain, and can cause high anxiety, panic attacks and hallucinations.

Across the country, emergency room visits by teens hallucinating or having psychotic episodes after smoking K2 are on the rise.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in the first half of 2011 there were 567 K2-related calls to poison control centers in the US, compared with just 13 reported in 2009.

Legal Marijuana
Dr. Allen said that in Oregon where marijuana is legal, dispensaries are marketing marijuana in cookies, brownies and candy. He featured a slide in his presentation that showed an ad for a marijuana product in Oregon.

“There’s no need to worry because we can leave it up to the entrepreneurs to do the right thing,” he said facetiously. “Who are they marketing the orange candies to?” he asked, pointing out the small print at the bottom of an advertisement of a teenage girl holding a giant lollipop. “These are obviously marijuana candies,” Dr. Allen said.

Addiction as a preventable disease and the decision to wait until 21 could mean the difference between debilitating addiction and a productive life.

See also:

GHS Grads Break Silence on Drugs from Marijuana to Heroin

Tesei Announces Study on Opioid, Heroin Addiction in Greenwich

Addiction and the Power of Denial in Greenwich


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  • Scott E

    Lumping Marijuana and synthetic pot is ridiculous. The synthetic stuff is dangerous crap, the real stuff is harmless. Also it’s time to stop with this 1930s fear of cannabis. Many adults smoke or eat cannabis and lead full functional lives with jobs and families. By lumping them together and using the same tired arguments, you are doing a disservice to the community.

    • greenwichfreepress

      They were two separate topics covered in one talk by an expert in addiction, Dr. J. Craig Allen. I disagree that the real stuff is harmless, especially to adolescents.That was the thrust of the talk.

      • Eleanor

        The so called “real stuff” is not harmless. It stays in your brain. Pot is also a gateway drug to other things. Drugs and broken homes are the biggest tragedy affecting our youth.
        George Soros, I understand, is financing campaigns to legalize pot in different states.
        My brother in law died of brain cancer after becoming addicted to pot when he was 17.
        No, not all parents smoked pot. I didn’t, and neither did my husband. This “everyone did it is harmful.” So is legalization. It puts an official imprimatur on something which is destroying people’s minds.

  • Karen

    Scott E. is right. Dr. Allen has a vested interest in preserving the ‘war on marijuana’, which should have been pointed out more explicitly in order to present an unbiased article. Synthetics like K2 are a problem, but they are a result of misguided prohibition.