Professional Development workshop: “Teaching Marijuana Prevention”

October 5, 2016

Join us for this 2-part professional development workshop on 11/14 & 11/18 where we will:

  • Examine trends in the social & legal acceptance of marijuana in the US
  • Consider effective strategies in responding to learners
  • Develop specific responses to challenging questions that may arise in school and community education settings

Space is limited. Click here to register> MJ 11.14&18.16-1.jpg


Youth Perception of Marijuana Harm Decreases as Marijuana Concentrate Becomes More Potent

June 30, 2016

Although marijuana use among youth poses a risk to health, nationally only 1 in 5 adolescents perceived it as such. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, this misperception among youth exists at a time when marijuana concentrates continue to become more potent, which is cause for public concern. This demonstrates the need to educate young people about various forms of marijuana and their related health consequences and harms.

According to SAMHSA’s Short Report, “State Estimates of Adolescent Marijuana Use and Perceptions of Risk of Harm from Marijuana Use: 2013 and 2014 ,” in the 12 to 17 age group, approximately 1.8 million youth reported using marijuana in the past month.

Health risks associated with youth marijuana use  include poorer education/employment outcomes ,cognitive problemsincreased likelihood of vehicle crashes , and increased addiction risk .

The Drug Enforcement Agency describes marijuana concentrate  as a substance containing highly potent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of marijuana). This concentrate is often referred to as oil or “710” (“OIL” spelled upside down and backwards). THC levels in this oil could range from 40 to 80 percent, which is about four times stronger than what is found in a “high grade” marijuana plant.

Read more from SAMHSA

SOURCE: US Department of Education 06-29-16 ED’s OSHS PREVENTION NEWS DIGEST-Vol. 12, No. 24

Professional Development Workshop, 7/11

June 29, 2016

Are you prepared to teach marijuana prevention? Join us for this 2-part professional development workshop on 7/11 & 7/15 where we will:

  • Examine trends in the social & legal acceptance of marijuana in the US
  • Consider effective strategies in responding to learners
  • Develop specific responses to challenging questions that may arise in school and community education settings

Space is limited. Click here to register>


New Professional Development Workshop

May 16, 2016

NHPA is pleased to offer Substance Abuse Prevention workshops designed for health educators and professionals seeking to expand their experience, knowledge, and skills related to prevention education.

Teaching Marijuana Prevention

MJ crop.pngThe status of marijuana has undergone rapid legal and cultural shifts in recent years. These changes present specific challenges to school and community health educators.

In this workshop, participants will explore the social and legal trends in acceptance, the pharmacology of marijuana, and effective strategies for responding to the misconceptions adolescents hold about marijuana.


Click to download >>> Enrollment Form and email to or fax to 914-421-2007. SPACE IS LIMITED!


Percentage of U.S. 12th Graders Who Perceive a Great Risk of Regular Marijuana Use At Lowest Level Since 1978

February 10, 2014

The percentage of 12th grade students who perceive regular marijuana use to be a great risk continues to decrease, according to the most recent data from the national Monitoring the Future (MTF) study. After peaking in the early 1990s, the perceived risk of physical or other harm from regular marijuana use decreased for a few years, then leveled off for a decade before beginning to decline again in 2007. In 2013, 40% of  12th graders thought that using marijuana regularly posed a great risk, the lowest level since the record low of 35% in 1978.

According to the study’s author, “Perceived risk—namely the risk to the user that teenagers associate with a drug—has been a lead indicator of use, both for marijuana and other drugs, and it has continued its sharp decline in 2013 among teens. This could foretell further increases in use in the future” (p. 2). In 2013, 23% of 12th graders reported using marijuana in the past month, the highest level since 1999, but still lower than the peak of 37% reached in 1978 (see CESAR FAX, Volume 23, Issue 3).

Adapted by CESAR from University of Michigan, “American Teens More Cautious About Using Synthetic Drugs,” Monitoring the Future National Press Release, December 18, 2013. Available online at

Early Marijuana Use Results in Abnormal Brain Structure, Poor Memory

December 24, 2013

Teens who were heavy marijuana users – smoking it daily for about three years – had abnormal changes in their brain structures related to working memory and performed poorly on memory tasks, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

A poor working memory predicts poor academic performance and everyday functioning.

The brain abnormalities and memory problems were observed during the individuals’ early twenties, two years after they stopped smoking marijuana, which could indicate the long-term effects of chronic use. Memory-related structures in their brains appeared to shrink and collapse inward, possibly reflecting a decrease in neurons.

The study also shows the marijuana-related brain abnormalities are correlated with a poor working memory performance and look similar to schizophrenia-related brain abnormalities. Over the past decade, Northwestern scientists, along with scientists at other institutions, have shown that changes in brain structure may lead to changes in the way the brain functions.

This is the first study to target key brain regions in the deep subcortical gray matter of chronic marijuana users with structural MRI and to correlate abnormalities in these regions with an impaired working memory. Working memory is the ability to remember and process information in the moment and – if needed – transfer it to long-term memory. Previous studies have evaluated the effects of marijuana on the cortex, and few have directly compared chronic marijuana use in otherwise healthy individuals and individuals with schizophrenia.

The younger the individuals were when they started chronically using marijuana, the more abnormally their brain regions were shaped, the study reports. The findings suggest that these regions related to memory may be more susceptible to the effects of the drug if abuse starts at an earlier age.

“The study links the chronic use of marijuana to these concerning brain abnormalities that appear to last for at least a few years after people stop using it,” said lead study author Matthew Smith, PhD, an assistant research professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “With the movement to decriminalize marijuana, we need more research to understand its effect on the brain.”

The paper was published Dec. 16 in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.

In the U.S., marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug and young adults have the highest – and growing – prevalence of use. Decriminalization of the drug may lead to greater use.

Because the study results examined one point in time, a longitudinal study is needed to definitively show if marijuana is responsible for the brain changes and memory impairment. It is possible that the abnormal brain structures reveal a pre-existing vulnerability to marijuana abuse. But evidence that the younger a subject started using the drug the greater his brain abnormality indicates marijuana may be the cause, Smith said.

The groups in the study started using marijuana daily between 16 to 17 years of age for about three years. At the time of the study, they had been marijuana free for about two years. A total of 97 subjects participated, including matched groups of healthy controls, subjects with a marijuana use disorder, schizophrenia subjects with no history of substance use disorders, and schizophrenia subjects with a marijuana use disorder. The subjects who used marijuana did not abuse any other drugs.

Few studies have examined marijuana’s effect on the deep regions in the brain — the ‘subcortical gray matter’ below the noodle-shaped cortex. The study also is unique in that it looked at the shapes of the striatum, globus pallidus and thalamus, structures in the subcortex that are critical for motivation and working memory.

The Marijuana and Schizophrenia Connection

Chronic use of marijuana may contribute to changes in brain structure that are associated with having schizophrenia, the Northwestern research shows. Of the 15 marijuana smokers who had schizophrenia in the study, 90 percent started heavily using the drug before they developed the mental disorder. Marijuana abuse has been linked to developing schizophrenia in prior research.

“The abuse of popular street drugs, such as marijuana, may have dangerous implications for young people who are developing or have developed mental disorders,” said co-senior study author John Csernansky, MD, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “This paper is among the first to reveal that the use of marijuana may contribute to the changes in brain structure that have been associated with having schizophrenia.”

Chronic marijuana use could augment the underlying disease process associated with schizophrenia, Smith noted. “If someone has a family history of schizophrenia, they are increasing their risk of developing schizophrenia if they abuse marijuana,” he said.

While chronic marijuana smokers and chronic marijuana smokers with schizophrenia both had brain changes related to the drug, subjects with the mental disorder had greater deterioration in the thalamus. That structure is the communication hub of the brain and is critical for learning, memory and communications between brain regions. The brain regions examined in this study also affect motivation, which is already notably impaired in people with schizophrenia.

“A tremendous amount of addiction research has focused on brain regions traditionally connected with reward/aversion function, and thus motivation,” noted co-senior study author Hans Breiter, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Warren Wright Adolescent Center at Feinberg and Northwestern Memorial. “This study very nicely extends the set of regions of concern to include those involved with working memory and higher level cognitive functions necessary for how well you organize your life and can work in society.”

“If you have schizophrenia and you frequently smoke marijuana, you may be at an increased risk for poor working memory, which predicts your everyday functioning,” Smith said.

The research was supported by grants R01 MH056584 and P50 MH071616 from the National Institute of Mental Health and grants P20 DA026002 and RO1 DA027804 from National Institute of Drug Abuse, all of the National Institutes of Health.

2013 Monitoring the Future Survey Finds Fewer Teens View Regular Marijuana Use As Harmful

December 20, 2013

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — More than 60 percent of high school seniors don’t view regular marijuana use as harmful, according to the 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey, an annual survey of eighth, 10th, and 12th-graders by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the University of Michigan.In addition, marijuana use over the past decade has continued to trend upwards among all three grades. Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), the nation’s leading substance abuse prevention organization, is concerned about these findings and calls for an increase in effective prevention efforts, such as the Drug-Free Communities program.

The survey found that only 39.5 percent of 12th graders view regular marijuana use as harmful, down from last year’s rate of 44.1 percent, and considerably lower than rates from the last two decades. The findings also show that marijuana use increased among 8th and 10th graders between 2012 and 2013. In 2013, the annual prevalence rate of marijuana use (the percent using once or more in the prior 12 months) increased from 11.4 percent to 12.7 percent among 8thgraders and from 28 percent to just under 30 percent among 10th graders, while among 12thgraders, use continued at 36.4 percent.

Equally concerning is that there were no declines in daily marijuana use, which has the most impact on a young person’s cognitive ability. Today, one in every 15 high school seniors (6.5 percent) is a daily or near-daily marijuana user. The comparable percentages among 8th and 10th graders are 1.1 percent and 4.0 percent, respectively.

“Whether youth perceive a drug to be harmful is a key indicator of future use so CADCA is extremely concerned that fewer teens view regular marijuana use as harmful. Not only are attitudes softening, but marijuana use is continuing to increase among our young people. These findings should concern parents, educators or anyone who cares about the ability of youth to succeed and thrive in our society,” said Gen. Arthur T. Dean, CADCA’s Chairman and CEO. “I would ask parents out there if they are comfortable with their kids using marijuana, which research shows lowers IQ and is addictive, especially in young people.  I have a feeling if more people understood what’s at stake, they would stand up on this issue.”

The study also explored whether states with medical marijuana laws had an impact on youthmarijuana use. According to the findings, of the 12th graders who say that they have used marijuana in the 12 months prior to the survey and who reside in states that passed such laws by the end of the year prior to the survey, a third (34 percent) say that one of their sources of marijuana is another person’s medical marijuana prescription. And 6 percent say they get it from their own prescription.

“This proves that states with medical marijuana laws have failed at preventing diversion to young people and are in fact offering teens yet another avenue of obtaining the drug,” CADCA’s Gen. Dean noted.

The report also showed positive trends. For example, for the first time, the percentage of students in all three grades combined who say they smoked tobacco in the past month is below 10 percent (9.6 percent) compared to 16.7 percent 10 years ago and 24.7 percent in 1993. Daily smoking of cigarettes is now at 8.5 percent for 12th-graders, 4.4 percent for 10th-graders, and 1.8 percent for eighth-graders. The use of alcohol by teens also continued to decline. For 12th-graders, alcohol usepeaked in 1997, with more than half (52.7 percent) reporting drinking alcohol in the past month. Only 39.2 percent of seniors reported past month use this year. Binge drinking (defined as having five or more drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks) dropped considerably for 10th- graders (to 13.7 percent from 15.6 percent in 2012.)

“We’re incredibly pleased to see that alcohol and tobacco use are now at historic lows. That shows that when community coalitions push back on something, and we as a nation also push back in a systematic way, we see major results. However, with marijuana we’re doing the opposite by calling for the legalization of the drug and now we’re experiencing the results of those actions,” CADCA’s Gen. Dean said. “We need a greater investment in programs like the Drug-Free Communities programs, which funds community-based coalitions that have shown to be effective vehicles for reducing drug use rates among teens.”

CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America), is the national membership organization representing coalitions working to make America’s communities safe, healthy and drug-free. CADCA’s mission is to build and strengthen the capacity of community coalitions by providing technical assistance and training, public policy advocacy, media strategies and marketing programs, conferences, and special events.

For more information about CADCA, visit

Contact: Natalia Martinez Duncan 703-706-0560 ext. 256


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