September marked the 10th anniversary of my son Justin’s death at age 17 from an accidental drug overdose. The medical examiner’s report months later said it was heroin that killed him. But I have to say for Justin it all began with marijuana, and I’m angrier at marijuana than I am at heroin. Here’s why.
Justin was a good student, an extremely talented musician and songwriter on the verge of completing the recording of his first original music album. On Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008, Justin spent the afternoon with people we didn’t know and came home later than expected as he readied for his first full week as a senior at Yorktown High School. He never woke up that Monday morning. Somewhere along the way that Sunday he had snorted heroin. Continue reading New York Dad says marijuana complicit in son’s heroin overdose death→
Amid a renewed push to legalize marijuana federally, California has suspended 407 marijuana business licenses, affecting about five percent of legal cannabis supply chains, ranging from manufacturers to retailers.
By Sue B It doesn’t strike people down like pills or heroin does. It doesn’t make the heart explode like cocaine or methamphetamine can. A person in withdrawal from marijuana isn’t screaming in pain. So what makes weed the most dangerous?
Simply because so many people believe that it is harmless. As Richard Adamski, a 30-year marijuana user, put it, “In my strong opinion, cannabis is the most dangerous drug because most people think it isn’t.” Now that he’s stopped consuming cannabis, he says, “I am 66 now and nothing to show for what I’ve done in my life because of marijuana.”
Twins who use cannabis by age 17 are 2.1 to 5.2 times more likely to develop addiction issues. An Australian twins study determined this likelihood by comparing twins who used pot to the co-twins who hadn’t used marijuana.
Although not a gateway for everyone, cannabis often is a gateway for those who become addicted and die. Study after study has shown a relationship between the use of marijuana and other psychoactive and addictive substances. Yet marijuana lobbyists twist the issue and say it’s not a gateway drug.
Marijuana is a major cause of drug-related medical and psychiatric emergency room episodes. Liberalizing marijuana laws escalates this problem. Some go to the hospital for marijuana-induced psychosis while others seek medical help for vomiting.
The Australian Twins Study
The January 22/29, 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the outcome of a well-controlled study designed to determine whether genetic predisposition or environmental factors determine if an underage cannabis user will progress to other drugs. The findings from this research led to “Escalation of Drug Use in Early-Onset Cannabis Users vs. Co-Twin Control,” by LynskyM, HeathA and BucholzK.
The study found that a twin who had used cannabis by age 17 was significantly more likely to use other drugs. The same twins were more likely to become drug and alcohol dependent, compared with their co-twin who had not used marijuana. And there was very little difference whether the twins were fraternal or identical.
In other words, environmental influences can trump genetic predisposition for those who progress from cannabis use to the use of other psychoactive and addictive substances. For the sake of this study, “environmental factors” were “associations and circumstances” leading to this progression.
According to the authors, “In particular, early access to and use of cannabis may reduce perceived barriers against the use of other illegal drugs and provide access to these drugs.”
The study predicted what has happened in the USA and Canada. For example, a large group of young people who died of overdoses in Massachusetts began their drug use with marijuana. Politicians continue to consider the overdose problem only an issue with opioids rather than a poly-drug addiction. People continue to suggest that marijuana will substitute for opioid pain medications, despite the fact that most youth who overdose begin with pot.
Exposure to One Class of Drugs increases consumption of other drugs
The same issue of JAMA carried an editorial entitled “Does Marijuana Use Cause the Use of Other Drugs?” The author referenced research which found cross-sensitization between repeated exposure to THC (The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) and opiates. “With cross-sensitization, exposure to one class of drug increases consumption of other drug classes, consistent with the existence of a gateway effect.”
The editorial stated, “Prevention efforts will presumably affect the underlying risk and protective factors related to the onset of marijuana use, whether or not these factors are shared with the onset of the use of other illicit drugs. For youths who have already used marijuana, the issue is: can and should intervention programs be developed to target this group at very high risk for progressing to other substances? It appears so.”
Parents, please don’t take early teen marijuana use lightly. It frequently leads to significant poly-drug abuse problems. Sometimes the problem stops at marijuana addiction. Addiction to pot occurs in 1 in 6 users who begin between ages 12 and 17. Until we stop minimizing the harm of early pot use, we won’t get the drug epidemic under control.