Dr. Chris Cunningham speaks to a crowd of about 200 people at a teen substance abuse presentation on medical aspects at Vernon Secondary School recently.

Dr. Chris Cunningham speaks to a crowd of about 200 people at a teen substance abuse presentation on medical aspects at Vernon Secondary School recently.

Teen drug abuse concerns grow

Presentation focussed on the impacts that marijuana, alcohol and tobacco are having on kids.

Despite the benefits of medical marijuana, concerns are lighting up over the detrimental effect the drug is producing in kids, as it becomes increasingly accepted.

More than 200 people, including parents, youth, doctors and even 40 cadets, turned out a recent presentation focussed on the impacts that marijuana, alcohol and tobacco are having on kids.

The presentation, called Teen Substance Abuse: Medical Aspects, was put on through the Vernon School District and featured doctors David Smith, Chris Cunningham and Mike Concannon.

District substance abuse prevention counsellor Doug Rogers, who daily sees the impact these substances have on youth, was also a key figure.

Without getting into a debate, they presented the facts concerning youth.

Like how more than 96 per cent of all drug deaths in Canada (2014) were caused by alcohol and tobacco, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

“These two are killing people and the marijuana is killing dreams of our young people,” said Rogers, as cannabis directly affects the brain (especially the already vulnerable, developing brain of youth).

Smith pointed out the host of impacts cannabis has on the brain, including decreasing IQ among regular users under 18.

“An unmotivated high school kid is a very sad thing,” said Rogers.

Concannon shared some of what he sees in the emergency room at Vernon Jubilee Hospital among marijuana users.

“Marijuana is so much more potent now that the paranoia we’re seeing is so high in emergency,” said Rogers.

Despite the benefits that medical marijuana has, the growing acceptance and legalization is having adverse effects.

Rogers points to Colorado where additional problems are cropping up, such as pets ingesting the drug.

“The governor of Colorado came out saying, ‘we made a mistake.’”

Meanwhile alcohol and tobacco are both legal substances which have their own problems.

When it comes to tobacco, Cunningham provided extensive information on the traditional cigarettes as well as e-cigarettes.

Smoking is the No. 1 preventable cause of death in Canada, said Cunningham, yet each day between 82,000 and 99,000 young people around the world start smoking.

Meanwhile cigarette smoking has decreased but e-cigarettes has increased among teens. Those who use e-cigs are twice as likely to smoke tobacco eventually (2013 CDC journal, Nicotine and Tobacco Research).

The $1 million question was what can parents do to protect their kids.

A major part is having a connectedness with family, a strong attachment to mom and dad.

Whether it’s marijuana, alcohol or tobacco, kids are turning to the substances as an escape, or a way to control anxiety. But that’s not the way to do it, said Rogers.

“We need to teach kids to self-soothe.”

The presentation is available for viewing at ww.sd22.bc.ca (under resource links).

Parents and educators in both secondary and elementary schools are urged to share the information with kids and start the conversation.

“This is perfectly OK to send to elementary kids, this is where it starts,” said Rogers.