To the editor of THE EAGLE:
In response to an overall decrease in our community’s perception of harm and an increase in attitudes favorable toward marijuana use, it is important to understand the far-reaching consequences of marijuana use and its effects, particularly with regard to youth.
Research shows that one out of every 11 marijuana users become addicted to it, and one out of every six adolescents who start using marijuana before the age of 18 becomes addicted, according to a 2002 Johns Hopkins University study. Nationally, marijuana is the No. 1 reason adolescents are admitted to substance-abuse treatment. Whether or not marijuana is or is not a gateway drug, there is evidence that marijuana use in and of itself affects cognitive abilities. We know that marijuana use directly affects the brain, specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention and reaction time.
The National Institute on Mental Health confirms that the adolescent brain -- particularly the part of the brain that regulates planning for complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making and social behavior -- is not fully developed until the early to mid-20s. Developing brains are especially susceptible to all of the negative effects of marijuana use, and the use of any drug. Marijuana use has also been linked to poor academic results, low motivational drive, and arrested development in coping skills.
Therefore, regardless of the autonomy of "grown-ups" to make their own choices, I would hope that as a community we can support young people in making decisions that increase their chances of success and healthy living overall. TINA TARTAGLIA
The writer is program coordinator, Patrick Miller Youth Substance Abuse Program at the Brien Center, and steering committee member of the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership.