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The dope on Marijuana

I grew up with the last name of Weed and as you can imagine I received my fair share of comments about that name. My first professional job was as a counselor in an elementary school.

There my name was thought of as "the stuff in gardens." That was before accepting a position as a substance abuse counselor in a middle school and high school. Now I tell the kids I work with that my name is perfect for my job, an ice breaker into a discussion of substance abuse. But when did the word "weed" go from being a gardening term to a drug reference? When is a joke about my name not really funny? Marijuana is a serious drug that can have significant and long standing side effects for people who abuse it.

According the 2008 NYS Youth Developmental survey, about 22 percent of the surveyed Skaneateles students admitted to using marijuana (one time or more) which was just under the county result of 25 percent.

I wanted to focus on another aspect that the survey questioned our students about. Students were asked about their own perceptions of risk in regards to the use of marijuana as well as their opinion of their parents' perception of danger. While 50 percent believed marijuana was dangerous they understood that 94 percent of their parents disapproved of marijuana use. In other words, student had received the message that their parents thought marijuana was dangerous but they were unconvinced.

So what does this result tell us? I believe it reinforces parents that their message about the dangers of substance use and specifically marijuana is getting through. The other side is that there still needs to be a focus on education of dangers as well as some counter balance to the "positive" or "harmless" peer message students seem to be receiving. This positive message persists even in the face of the education that is given to students through years of health classes and the STARS program.

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