Facts for educators about marijuana


talkmj.JPG (20331 bytes) According to University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future data, marijuana use by students in grades 8, 10 and 12 has risen each year in direct correlation to the decreased harm students associate with the drug. As perceived risk goes down, youth use rates go up. Studies also show that students are beginning to experiment with marijuana at younger and younger ages. These findings point to the need for serious communication about the drug to dispel myths and emphasize real dangers.

When the topic is marijuana, students need to know facts. They need to know about their relationship to the drug. They must be aware of the increased likelihood that they will become involved with marijuana or know someone who is involved with it. Good, open communication is the primary skill teachers must bring to the challenge of influencing youthful attitudes about marijuana. Topics to be covered when talking with children and youth and marijuana include the following:

  • What is marijuana and what are the many names for it?
  • What are the side effects of marijuana use?
  • What is the nature and possibility of marijuana dependence?
  • How do you critically assess movies, books, and music that show marijuana in a favorable light?
  • How do you pick supportive friends who are drug free and who help you remain drug free?
  • What are the effects of marijuana use on: school work; one’s relationship with others, including parents; and future hopes and dreams?
  • How do you say no when presented with the possibility of becoming involved with marijuana?
  • How can you maintain a healthy lifestyle?
  • What are stress reducers that don’t involve drug use?

As is often the case with many parents today, teachers are being called upon to educate students about the dangers of a drug with which the teachers themselves may have experimented in the past. Despite the questions this raises in your own mind, it is important to recognize why student use of this drug is indeed dangerous. The latest research points to the reality of marijuana dependence. As with nicotine, marijuana users who discontinue using the drug report feelings of irritability and depression conditions that often encourage resumption of the habit. Moreover, young people who use marijuana are 85 times likelier to use cocaine than children who have never used marijuana. (Source: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University).

Marijuana impairs short-term memory and the ability to concentrate abilities recognized by all educators to be important to school success. It slows reflexes and coordination and impairs the user’s ability to judge distance, speed and time abilities that are important in sports, computer work, driving a car or riding a bicycle. Marijuana smoke causes the same kind of respiratory problems that cigarette smoke does and can do more long-term damage to the lungs and heart than even cigarettes can.

For more information on marijuana, visit Basic Facts About Drugs.