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Fewer Colorado Teens View Pot As Dangerous, Survey Says

While fewer teens view pot as harmful, fewer teens are also smoking it.

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By McCarton Ackerman

08/13/14

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Colorado’s pro-pot stance could potentially be having an impact on how teenagers throughout the state view the drug.

The latest Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, conducted bi-annually, showed that fewer teenagers now consider marijuana to be a dangerous drug. Roughly 54% of those surveyed perceive pot as risky, compared to 58% in 2011. However, the study also found that fewer kids in Colorado are smoking marijuana; 20% said they had smoked pot within the last 30 days, compared to 22% in 2011.

“A lot of people don’t realize that it’s addictive,” said Dr. Tonya Chaffee, a clinical professor of pediatrics at University California San Francisco. “I have many kids who use every day, and they're going to keep doing that. They say they can stop, but they don’t…it’s kind of a way to numb things out [for them].”

Chaffee said that at least one teenager every months asks her for a medical marijuana prescription, which she always declines. Many of her patients have also reported flu-like symptoms that come from withdrawal when they stop smoking.

A recent study out of Northwestern University has also confirmed that pot use during the teen years can create permanent changes in brain function. Led by Dr. Matthew Smith, the researchers found that heavy marijuana use during these formative years caused the part of the brain which handles working memory to become “abnormally shaped,” resulting in lower scores on memory assessments than those who didn’t smoke heavily as teenagers.

"We're at the same stage with research about marijuana, as we were in the prohibition era for alcohol," he said. "People were mixing alcohol with whatever they had to make whiskey and had no idea what the proof was—whatever would get them drunk. With marijuana it's quite similar and few people have any idea what the THC content is, and what they're using."

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