Fed program tackles teens’ drug abuse

By Jasminee Sahoye

Not sure how to talk to your teenaged child about the harmful effects of drug abuse including marijuana? The federal government through the National Anti-Drug Strategy (NADS) has a new media campaign aimed at providing parents with the necessary information and tools to engage with their teenagers about this issue.

“The earlier drug use begins, the greater the likelihood of long-lasting harm. We know that parents can significantly influence the lives of youth between 13-15 years of age and that is why, through this campaign, we are aiming to give parents the tools and facts they need to have the often difficult conversations with their kids about drugs,” says Terence Young, MP for Oakville.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse says youth (ages 15-24) continue to have the highest self-reported past-year use of illicit substances compared to other Canadians.

It also states that the top five substances used by youth according to the 2010 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey (CADUMS) were alcohol (71.5%), marijuana (25.1%), hallucinogens (4.6%), ecstasy (3.8%) and cocaine (2.7%).

“Since 2008, there has been a downward trend in past year use among youth, in general and by gender, for each of the drugs listed above. There were no statistically significant differences in self-reported past year use of alcohol, cocaine or ecstasy between males and females, according to 2010 CADUMS data. However, significantly more young males reported using marijuana in the past year (2010) than young females.”

According to the Health Ministry, abuse of prescription drugs is dangerous and can lead to addiction, overdose and even death. In 2012-13, more than 80,000 Canadian kids admitted to using prescription drugs to get high.

It states smoking marijuana damages teens’ developing brains and is harmful to a person’s overall health.

The Preventing Drug Abuse Media Campaign is part of the larger NADS, launched in 2007 as the government’s approach to illicit drugs in Canada. In 2013, the government reiterated its commitment to drug prevention by expanding the NADS to include prescription drug abuse.

The marketing campaign will run until December and consists of seven weeks on television and 10 weeks on web and social media platforms. The ads illustrate the harmful effects of prescription drug abuse and marijuana use on the developing brains and bodies of teenagers.

“Drug abuse has devastating impacts on Canadians, especially youth. Today, we are launching a marketing campaign with the goal of equipping parents with the necessary tools to talk with their children and teens about the harmful effects of substance abuse. This campaign is part of our government’s ongoing commitment to address the dangers of marijuana use and prescription drug abuse among our children and youth,” says Health Minister Rona Ambrose.

The Health Ministry says pprescription drug abuse is having a devastating impact on communities and youth across the country. Last year, more than 80,000 Canadian kids used prescription drugs to get high. According to a 2013 Ontario study, 70% of teens who abused prescription drugs reported obtaining the drug from their own homes.

One of every eight deaths for Ontarians aged 25 to 34 was related to opioid (pain killers) use in 2010, up from one in 25 in 1999, according to the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and St. Michael’s Hospital.

Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug among Canadian youth and the average age of initiation among teens is 14, according to the 2012-13 Youth Smoking Survey.

“Adolescence is a time of rapid development change, during which the brain is particularly vulnerable to the effects of drugs. Investing in multi-faceted prevention efforts helps reduce the harms of use and abuse of drugs on youth, their families and communities. It can also greatly reduce the cost of addiction on Canadian society – including the costs to our economy, as well as our health and criminal justice systems,” says Rita Notarandrea, interim chief executive officer, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

Recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Drug Testing and Analysis show that today’s marijuana is on average 300-400% stronger than it was 30 years ago.

Teenagers’ developing brains are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of marijuana use. Regular long-term marijuana use can harm concentration, memory, the ability to think and make decisions and IQ. Some of these effects may persist after stopping marijuana use.

A recent 20-year medical review published in the journal Addiction on the long-term health effects of marijuana confirmed that it increases the chances of mental disorders and can lower IQ.

According to the International Narcotics Control Board, Canada is now the second-largest per capita consumer of prescription opioids, and 28% of Canadian youth between the ages of 11 and 15 reported using marijuana in 2012, according to a recent UNICEF study.