Smoking pot: not harmless

Prevention Coalition wants to get the message out

BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition (BAPC)  launched an educational campaign last month to inform young adults about the health and legal risks of using marijuana.

Through the campaign, “duh – did you hear the blunt truth about smoking pot,” we hope to address the high percentage of marijuana use among young adults in the community.

In fact, Vermont has the highest overall rate of marijuana use in the past year among 18-to-25-year-olds in the country at 41.9 percent. Among the same group, Vermont ranks second in the country for the rate of individuals who meet the criteria for dependence on illicit drugs within the previous year.

One misconception that BAPC hopes to change is that smoking pot is harmless. The truth is, marijuana use can cause health, safety, social, and learning problems.

All forms of marijuana contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the active chemical, and more than 400 other chemicals, many known to be carcinogenic.

Youth and young adults are the most at risk since brain development continues until around the age of 25. THC affects the part of the brain that controls memory formation, coordination, balance, and reaction time, affecting a person's ability to play sports, operate machinery, and drive a car.

According to the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union and the 2008-2009 Young Adult Survey, 42 percent of high school seniors and 45 percent of young adults rode in a car driven by someone under the influence of marijuana within 30 days of their response.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in a study that even using a moderate amount of marijuana impairs driving.  Thirty percent of national emergency room visits from misuse or abuse of illicit drugs was due to marijuana use, according to a 2006 report by the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

Despite these risks, 52 percent of Windham County 18- to 29-year-olds reported that they perceived no great risk of people harming themselves or others by smoking 1-2 times each week. In addition, 65 percent of high school seniors reported that they perceive no great risk of people harming themselves by using marijuana regularly.

Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition is a community-based coalition serving the Windham Southeast area working to prevent and reduce alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse.  We encourage the community to get involved and learn the truth about marijuana.

Our campaign will end Aug. 31, but with your help, the facts will spark a greater community discussion on marijuana use in youth and young adults.

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