--Surgeon General, American Medical Association, National PTA and American
Academy of Pediatrics Among Those Urging Parents to Talk to Their Kids
About the Risks of Marijuana--
(Washington) - The nation's leaders in public health, parenting and drug prevention
have joined the White House Drug Czar to warn parents about the serious risks
of youth marijuana use. Starting tomorrow, an "Open Letter to Parents About
Marijuana" will appear in nearly 300 newspapers nationwide. Signed by the Office
of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and 17 national organizations, the
letter warns parents that marijuana is a serious drug with serious consequences
for young users. Representatives of these organizations appeared today at a
press conference with the Drug Czar and the Surgeon General and urged parents
to learn more about marijuana and give their kids the facts.
"Marijuana is riskier than people think, especially for kids. Smoking marijuana
can lead to significant health and behavior problems for youth - disrupting
families and jeopardizing our children's futures," said John P. Walters, Director
of National Drug Control Policy. "The risks associated with marijuana have
been trivialized and our kids are getting the wrong message. It is time to
dispel the myths about marijuana. The facts are compelling, but we must arm
parents, teachers, community leaders and our children with the truth. Outdated
and false perceptions about the drug are putting today's kids at risk."
"Young marijuana users face serious risks. Marijuana can harm the brain, lungs
and mental health. Research also shows that marijuana is addictive," said Surgeon
General Richard Carmona, M.D. "More teens enter drug treatment each year for
marijuana than for all other illicit drugs combined. Marijuana use is also
three times more likely to lead to dependence among adolescents than among
Part of a larger marijuana prevention initiative that the ONDCP is rolling
out this fall, the "Open Letter to Parents about Marijuana" urges parents to
learn more about marijuana and to talk to their kids about the harm it poses
to young users, including putting them at risk for a host of significant health,
social, learning and behavioral problems at a crucial time in their lives.
The letter is signed by the ONDCP and the American Academy of Family Physicians;
American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Emergency Physicians; American
Medical Association; American Society of Addiction Medicine; Child Welfare
League of America; Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America/Drug-Free Kids
Campaign; National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse;
National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors; National Center
for School Health Nursing; National Crime Prevention Council; National Families
in Action; National Family Partnership; National Indian Health Board; National
Medical Association; National PTA; and National Center on Addiction and Substance
Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. These groups will help distribute educational
materials about marijuana to parents and youth this fall.
"The American Medical Association welcomes the opportunity to be one of 17
national organizations supporting the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign
against marijuana," said Richard F. Corlin, M.D., immediate past president,
AMA. "For far too long, the message to our nation's young people has been
that marijuana is harmless, when research has clearly proven that is not the
case. Marijuana is mind-altering, it can be addictive, and it can lead to destructive
The initiative will also include new print and broadcast advertising running
this fall designed to dispel popular myths and misconceptions about marijuana.
The advertising educates parents about the things they can say and do to keep
their kids drug-free. The Media Campaign is also publishing a new marijuana-specific
pamphlet for parents that will be available next month.
"Make no mistake, marijuana is a harmful, addictive drug that is readily available
to our children in communities across the country," said Louis Z. Cooper, M.D.,
president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Teenagers who are smoking
marijuana today are using a drug more potent than what was available in the
"The National Medical Association has become involved with this campaign because
marijuana is a problem in our community," said L. Natalie Carroll, M.D., president
of the NMA. "We do not want to see illicit drug use among our youth and we
believe that marijuana negatively affects many aspects of a young person's
life, including the ability to learn and think."
"National PTA is pleased to support ONDCP's initiative to increase awareness
of the dangers of drug abuse to the nation's children," said National PTA President
Shirley Igo. "The solution to the problem of alcohol and drug abuse is not
simple nor will it be accomplished quickly. It will take a sustained and collaborative
effort on the part of all those who have a stake in building healthy communities,
More kids use marijuana than cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and all other illicit
drugs combined. In fact, approximately 60 percent of young people who use illicit
drugs use marijuana only. The number of 8th graders who have used the drug
has doubled in the last decade from one in ten to one in five.
Studies also show that kids who use marijuana don't do as well in school.
Research has found that young people with an average grade of "D" or below
were more than four times as likely to have used marijuana in the last year
than those with an average grade of "A."
Young marijuana users are also more likely to engage in risky behavior, such
as having sex, becoming involved in violence, getting in trouble with the law,
driving while high or riding with someone who is, or experimenting with other
illegal drugs. Kids ages 12-17 who use marijuana weekly are five times more
likely to steal and nearly four times more likely to engage in violent acts
than those who don't.
However, research also shows that parents are the most powerful influence
on their kids when it comes to marijuana. Two-thirds of youth ages 13-17 say
losing their parents' respect is one of the main reasons they don't smoke marijuana
or use other drugs.
Parents can help keep their kids drug-free by asking questions and staying
involved in their childrens' lives. More information about the effects of marijuana
use and its signs and symptoms, as well as advice for parents on keeping kids
drug-free, can be found on ONDCP's Media Campaign Web site for parents at www.TheAntiDrug.com.
Parents can also call the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
at 1-800-788-2800 for free resources. Information for youth about marijuana
can be found by visiting www.Freevibe.com.
In 1998, with the bipartisan support of Congress and the President, ONDCP
created the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, an effort designed to
educate and empower youth to reject illicit drugs. Counting on an unprecedented
blend of public and private partnerships, non-profit community service organizations,
volunteerism, and youth-to-youth communications, the Campaign is designed to
reach Americans of diverse backgrounds wherever they live, learn, work, play
and practice their faith.