National Drug Facts Week, Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, was developed to educate teens with science-based facts about the effects and consequences that drugs have on the brain, body, and behavior. It empowers teens with the knowledge to make positive choices, and shatters the myths they get from the internet, TV, movies, music, or from friends.

We recognize National Drug Facts Week because about a third of high school seniors report using an illicit drug in the past year.

Many of the myths teens hear have to do with the use of marijuana. The majority of high school seniors do not think occasional marijuana smoking is harmful, with only 16.4 percent saying occasional use puts the user at great risk, compared to 27.4 percent five years ago. By contrast, 56.7 percent of seniors say they disapprove of occasional marijuana smoking. Teens may not know that:

• Marijuana is addictive. One in 11 people who use marijuana become addicted. This rate increases to 1 in 6 if you start in your teens, and goes up to 25-50% among daily users.

• Marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days and sometimes weeks, and even lower your IQ if you smoke it regularly in your teen years.

• Marijuana is the most common illegal drug involved in auto fatalities.

• Teens who use marijuana daily before turning 17 are over 60 percent less likely to graduate from high school compared to those who never used the drug.

• Daily marijuana users are seven times more likely to attempt suicide, and are eight times more likely to use other drugs later in life.

Other examples of information teens may not know include:

• Most people who start smoking in their teens become regular smokers before they are 18.

• The shorter the time between a teen’s first drink and the first time they get drunk, the greater their risk of later alcohol abuse.

• In the U.S., about 5,000 people die each year from injuries caused by underage drinking, nearly 40 percent from car crashes.

• More than 4 in 10 people who begin drinking before age 15 eventually become alcoholics.

• Some teens abuse stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall thinking it will improve their grades; in fact, it may do just the opposite.

• Mixing prescription medications with other drugs or with alcohol dramatically increases the risk of death from accidental overdose.

• Repeated drug use can reset the brain’s pleasure meter, so that without the drug, people feel hopeless and sad. Eventually, everyday activities like spending time with friends or playing with the dog don’t make the teen happy anymore.

We have a responsibility to protect our teens. Please talk to them early and often about the dangers of using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. These conversations could prevent addiction and other long-term health consequences, and even save lives.

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