Average age of 1st-time marijuana user in Oceana is 13.5.

July 19, 2016

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HART — Among teens in Oceana County, marijuana remains among the top substances of choice, surpassing tobacco use in recent years, according to a press release issued by District Health Department #10.

“As of this year, 19 percent of high school students have ever tried marijuana — a decrease from 28 percent in 2014,” the press release states. “Despite the drop in overall use, the average age for first-time use among Oceana County teens is 13.5. In addition, 4 percent of students had used marijuana before the age of 13.

“These trends have emerged alongside a spike in marketing for synthetic or ‘man-made’ cannabinoids, which are called such names as ‘Spice’, ‘K2’, or ‘fake weed.’ Despite being promoted as a ‘safe, legal’ alternative to marijuana, the ingredients in these substances can have a strong effect on chemical receptors in the brain, leading to unpredictable and sometimes life-threatening outcomes for the user.

“The rates for marijuana use among teens in Oceana County align with national averages, and demonstrate recent shifts in drug use behaviors among youth throughout the U.S. According to the Monitoring the Future survey, which has been tracking teen attitudes and drug use behaviors since 1975, marijuana use is directly related to a teen’s perception of the drug’s safety. Indeed, this connection rings true for teens in Oceana County. In 2014, about 53 percent of teens reported that they felt regular marijuana use was of ‘moderate or great risk,’ which has remained stable since the 2012 survey year.

“Although recent research highlights the long-term risks of using marijuana at a young age (including a lowered IQ and a greater likelihood of developing substance dependence), teens do not perceive the drug to be risky for their health or well-being. This low perception of risk is likely due, at least in part, to the national conversation regarding marijuana legalization for medical and recreational use, which has accelerated in recent years. Whether or not marijuana becomes legalized in Michigan, it presents significant risks for adolescents who start using the drug at a young age, and for teens that choose to use marijuana regularly.

“Parents can play a crucial role in helping to shift perceptions of marijuana, by talking with their teens about the risks of using the drug — synthetic or plant-grown — and the long-term impact that early substance use can have on their health and well-being. Although talking to teens about drug use isn’t easy, it is essential. The hardest part may simply be starting the conversation, but talking with teens early on about the facts and myths of marijuana can help to impact the decisions they make throughout their adolescence. Find more information about talking to your teen about marijuana at: www.talksooner.org.”

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