In light of the upcoming likelihood of marijuana legalization in Vermont (see: Scott Ready To Sign Off On Legalizing Possession, Cultivation Of Marijuana), persistent community education is more important than ever.
Below, the issue of marijuana and impaired driving is reviewed, and links to an easy-to-read handout on marijuana facts as well as a list of talking points, blurbs and graphics are provided for you to use when discussing this important topic.
Concerning links between marijuana use and mental health

Marijuana use is associated with several mental health disorders. Adolescent marijuana users, in particular, often show clinically significant symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and ADHD, along with conduct disorders. Just a few of the many examples of the negative impact of marijuana use on specific mental health challenges are outlined below:

Marijuana use and psychosis:

  • Since 2002, a series of ten long-term epidemiological studies have reported that individuals who used cannabis had a greater risk of developing psychotic symptoms and full-blown schizophrenia than non-users.

  • A recent study showed that the risk goes up to five-fold if the use is heavy or the marijuana is strong (potency 12% THC or higher; the average potency nationwide is now 13%; in Seattle it is 21%).

Marijuana use and suicidality

  • Teenage marijuana users have up to a seven-fold increase in the likelihood of suicide planning and attempts.

  • Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey data shows that suicide planning and attempts by Vermont teens increase directly as marijuana use goes up.

  • A recent study of Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans who use marijuana regularly are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who don’t use marijuana.

Marijuana use and PTSD

  • In a  20-year study involving over 2000 U.S. veterans being treated for PTSD, those who used medical marijuana in conjunction with the standard therapy reported worse outcomes four months after treatment ended than those who didn’t use marijuana.

We still have a lot to learn about how the highly potent marijuana available today impacts the brain, but we can say with certainty that those with a family history of addiction or mental health issues are at greater risk.
For more information to read and share, download this PDF.

Marijuana and Impaired Driving
No quick test exists for marijuana impairment. Unlike alcohol, THC is not water soluble, so it doesn’t remain in the blood stream or the saliva very long. Instead, THC is fat soluble, and the human brain is 70% fat.It usually takes at least an hour between an accident or traffic stop before the police can make a blood draw to test for the presence of THC. By that time, a lot of the THC and its metabolites will have been absorbed into the brain and other fatty tissues. No test exists to identify THC in the fatty tissue, brain or torso.

There are more alcohol users than marijuana users in Vermont, and driving simulator tests show alcohol to be more impairing than alcohol. Given this, one might assume that more traffic accidents are related to alcohol impaired drivers than to marijuana impaired drivers. Yet, a query from the VTrans Public Crash Data Query tool shows that, for years 2014, 2015 and 2016, traffic fatalities involving marijuana versus alcohol impairment were very close, with more marijuana related accidents than alcohol in all years except 2016, when there were 14 alcohol-related versus 12 marijuana related accidents.

2015 VT YRBS data showed that more high school students will drive after using marijuana than after using alcohol, and more students will ride with a marijuana-impaired driver than with an alcohol-using driver.Clearly, the impact of marijuana impairment on traffic safety continues to exceed expectations and challenge popular assumptions.

Prevention of sexual harassment to decrease risk of substance abuse
From the Prevention Institute:
Mental health is at the heart many of the challenges we face, including trauma and adverse childhood experiences, social isolation, institutionalized bias and discrimination, and ‘diseases of despair’ that manifest in depression, suicide, and substance misuse. Addressing social determinants of health is key to helping communities navigate adversity, heal, and flourish.
In light of the recent events surrounding sexual harassment and assault, this article from Prevention Institute offers ways to prevent sexual harassment/violence in terms of changing the norms that tend to nurture abusive behaviors. Any chance to address traumatic experiences in a community is–indirectly–an opportunity to help prevent substance abuse.
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