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Marijuana & Child, Adolescent Development

Dr. Christian Thurstone has summarized and sourced some key medical research findings concerning marijuana's impact on children from pregnancy through adolescence. He regularly presents this information and invites people with questions to reach him through this website, http://www.drthurstone.com/contact.
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Social Costs of Marijuana

Dr. Thurstone presented most of this information to a committee of the Denver City Council on March 11, 2013. Because of time constraints during that public meeting, he did not address all of the information on the slides presented here.
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Home » The Service Line » Neuroimages: Science & Mental Health at a Glance » Marijuana Grow Operation Destroyed

Marijuana Grow Operation Destroyed

Local, state and federal authorities teamed July 15, 2012 to destroy a black-market marijuana grow operation outside Pueblo, Colo. Officials valued the growing fields -- which stretched across rugged terrain on privately owned property -- at a minimum of $11 million and said they were the work of a Mexican drug cartel.
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More than 100 people attended the Marijuana Prevention Summit, presented by the Colorado Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Society on July 31, 2012 at The Denver Press Club. The event focused on the latest science on adolescent addiction and marijuana use, public drug-prevention policies and effective strategies in community prevention and intervention. The day's speakers included world-recognized, drug-policy expert Kevin Sabet, and John Redman, executive director of San Diego-based Community Alliance for Drug-Free Youth. Attendees cut across industries, nonprofit sectors and professional disciplines. They were elected officials, law enforcement officers, lawyers, educators, county and military drug-prevention coordinators, gang-prevention specialists -- and plenty of healthcare professionals seeking continuing medical education credit from the Colorado Medical Society.
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In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, Dr. Thurstone begins his presentations with a list of his potential conflicts of interest. There are two: he receives funding from the National Institutes of Health, and he is an employee of Denver Health and Hospital Authority.
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The Adams County Youth Initiative conducts Colorado's most detailed annual survey of drug use attitudes and trends among this state's grade-school students. Learn more at http://www.acyi.org.
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The Centers for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System reports changes in teen marijuana use. The data's limitations and some of their confounding variables are listed on the next slide. I explain them in more detail on this website: http://drthurstone.com/jumping-to-conclusions-with-cdc-data.
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The Centers for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System reports changes in teen marijuana use. The data's limitations and some of their confounding variables are listed on the next slide. I explain them in more detail here: http://drthurstone.com/jumping-to-conclusions-with-cdc-data.
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Colorado public schools reported a 40 percent spike in drug-related school expulsions in one academic year. Though the data are not broken down by substance, officials at the Colorado Department of Education said the dramatic increase was overwhelmingly because of students' use and possession of marijuana. The department was so alarmed by its findings that it asked me to produce materials explaining marijuana's harm to adolescents. You can find them on the state education department's website here: http://www.cde.state.co.us/DropoutPrevention/Resources.htm
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Colorado law enforcement agencies are reporting increases in driving under the influence of marijuana -- which does not make someone a more careful, responsible or safer driver. In fact, just the opposite. Nationally, marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug detected in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers and motor vehicle crash victims, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Marijuana impairs response time and impulse control. Of seriously injured drivers admitted to a level-1 trauma medical center, more than 25 percent tested positive for marijuana, according to a peer-reviewed study (Source: Romano, E. and Voas, R.B. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2011).
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Colorado is steadily reporting higher numbers of traffic fatalities involving a driver who tested positive for marijuana.
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Though this study was published in 2011, we gathered data the previous year. Nearly half of the adolescents in active substance abuse treatment who were studied reported that they had obtained marijuana from someone with a license. It is important to link this data to the three conditions that lead to drug use: accessibility, social acceptance and perception of the drug’s harmfulness.
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Though this study was published in 2011, we gathered data the previous year. We asked the same question of youth who were not in substance abuse treatment and had visited a primary care physician. 18 percent of these young people had obtained marijuana from someone with a marijuana license. It is important to link this data to the three conditions that lead to drug use: accessibility, social acceptance and perception of the drug’s harmfulness.
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The diversion of so-called "medical" marijuana to adolescents has continued to rise in Colorado. I am a co-author of this study, published in the July 2012 edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. This chart indicates that we studied 164 Denver-area adolescents in substance abuse treatment. 73.8 percent of them reported that they had used someone's medical marijuana. These users reported more frequent marijuana use than did users who were not consuming someone else's medical marijuana.
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This study -- which found that nearly 30 percent of people either believed or were unsure of whether marijuana is safe for a pregnant woman to use -- underscores the need for more public education about marijuana's harmfulness.
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First, it's important to note that the human brain doesn't mature until about age 25. This diagram shows where marijuana binds throughout the brain. The dots correspond to places in the brain that are rich in CB1 receptors.You can see that the prefrontal cortex (which controls judgment), the brain reward circuit (that deeper purple channel in the center of the brain), the hippocampus (which affects memory and learning) and the cerebellum (which is charged with coordination) are rich in CB1 receptors. This helps explain marijuana's wide-ranging effects on the brain.
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This graphical representation of a 2008 study shows that there is a period in adolescence when the brain’s drive for pleasure and new experiences is strong, but its “brakes” are not. This is why adolescents have more trouble than adults in controlling their impulses, and why adolescents may know what they should be doing but have trouble doing it.This graphic also explains why adolescents are more vulnerable to becoming addicted to substances. Adolescents who try marijuana are more than nine times more likely to develop symptoms of cannabis dependence than adults who try marijuana (Chen et al., 2009). Overall -- counting adults and adolescents -- 1 in 10 people who try marijuana becomes addicted to it.
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Adolescents who use marijuana before the age of 18 are 2-4 times more likely to develop symptoms of psychosis in early adulthood than those who do not.This finding has been replicated at least eight times and persists after controlling for many possible confounding variables, such as family history, other substance use and socioeconomic status.These studies have involved thousands and thousands of people over generations and in several populations and countries. You can learn more about marijuana's link to psychosis on this website: http://drthurstone.com/new-research-underscores-marijuanas-link-to-psychosis
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Marijuana use has acute (meaning up to six hours), subacute (6 hours to 20 days) and long-term (more than 20 days) effects. So, even if a youth isn't actively using the drug, his or her abilities to learn and interact successfully at school could be compromised for extended periods of time. Here are some of the acute effects of marijuana on cognitive aspects important for learning.
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Much of the research about the impact marijuana has on the adolescent brain comes from animal studies because it would be unethical to perform these studies in humans. Rats go through adolescence at about the age of 20 days. In these studies, rats are exposed to marijuana (or similar drugs) and then tested as adults. These are relatively recent findings of the impact of adolescent exposure. As seen here, researchers found that the rats experienced negative effects on their motivation, social interaction, memory and attention spans. Results were mixed on their learning. These findings are consistent with the observations child mental health workers make about adolescent marijuana smokers.
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If marijuana use were delayed beyond the age of 18, we would see 17 percent less high school dropout, 5 percent less college nonattendance and 3 percent less college dropout.
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There is a persistent myth that marijuana use makes people passive. However, the body of literature documenting marijuana use and aggression has been known for decades.
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Young people under the influence of marijuana -- or any substance -- often make poor judgments about sex and the use of contraceptives. In 2011, Dr.Thurstone published the findings of a survey comparing data collected in Colorado from 402 adolescents in substance abuse treatment and from 220 adolescents from the larger community who were not in treatment for substance-related problems. Among his team’s findings: •Adolescent marijuana users were more likely to have sex at an earlier age. •Adolescent marijuana users had more sexual partners than their non-using peers, and they were far less likely to use protection when having sex. •When asked eight years after providing their initial information, adolescent marijuana users were far more likely to have engaged in injection drug use and the earlier teens started using marijuana, the more likely they were to develop injection drug use.
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Youth are heavily influenced by marketing and media. Each year, 58 percent of the nation's 2.4 million new marijuana users are under the age of 18, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Legalization of marijuana would allow sellers of the drug to bombard communities with advertising and marketing. With legalization, communities will find it hard both to allow commercial marijuana and also limit its promotion.
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Home » The Service Line » Neuroimages: Science & Mental Health at a Glance » Commissioning U.S. Army Maj. Christian Thurstone

Commissioning U.S. Army Maj. Christian Thurstone

Dr. Christian Thurstone is the only psychiatrist in the United States scheduled to be admitted to our nation's military in 2012 to serve the increasingly dire mental-health-treatment needs of active and inactive military personnel. On July 19, 2012, he picked up another title: U.S. Army Major. He'll serve in the Army's 807th Medical Command -- and specifically in a unit focused on "combat stress reduction."
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Stay Motivated

Swedish artist Marcus Mårtenson spent a good deal of his childhood in the United States. Don't let his cartoonish imagery fool you: this series, "Stay Motivated," is an insightful look at serious problems of the mind, body, heart and soul that are often exacerbated by today's highly charged media and politics. These works, many purchased by private collectors, exhibited at the Angelika Knäpper Gallery in Stockholm April 12 - May 20, 2012.
Marcus Mårtenson and Dr. Chris Thurstone

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