Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
As a growing number of states are legalizing marijuana or considering legislation to do so, pot’s public profile is on the rise–and so is its presence on Twitter and other social media sites. A new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research has found that a number of those tweets are reaching young people each day, with hundreds of thousands of American youth getting pro-pot messages through their Twitter feeds multiple times a day.
The study, which was conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, followed a Twitter account, Weed Tweets@stillblazintho, which has 1 million followers. Analyzing data over an 8-month period, during which time the group posted an average of 11 tweets a day, the study reported that 73 percent of the group’s followers were under age 19.
ScienceDaily has more:
“These are risky ages when young people often begin experimentation with drugs,” explained [principal investigator Patricia A.] Cavazos-Rehg, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “It’s an age when people are impressionable and when substance-use behaviors can transition into addiction. In other words, it’s a very risky time of life for people to be receiving messages like these.”
Cavazos-Rehg said it isn’t possible from this study to “connect the dots” between positive marijuana tweets and actual drug use, but she cites previous research linking substance use to messages from television and billboards. She suggested this also may apply to social media.
“Studies looking at media messages on traditional outlets like television, radio, billboards and magazines have shown that media messages can influence substance use and attitudes about substance use,” she said. “It’s likely a young person’s attitudes and behaviors may be influenced when he or she is receiving daily, ongoing messages of this sort.”
The researchers also learned that the Twitter account they tracked reached a high number of African-Americans and Hispanics compared with Caucasians. Almost 43 percent were African-American, and nearly 12 percent were Hispanic. In fact, among Hispanics, Weed Tweets ranked in the top 30 percent of all Twitter accounts followed.
“It was surprising to see that members of these minority groups were so much more likely than Caucasians to be receiving these messages,” Cavazos-Rehg said, adding that there is particular concern about African-Americans because their rates of marijuana abuse and dependence are about twice as high as the rate in Caucasians and Hispanics.
The findings point to the need for a discussion about the pro-drug messages young people receive, Cavazos-Rehg said.
Image: Tween holding a tablet, via Shutterstock
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Child Health, Parenting News, Safety, Trends
Monday, June 9th, 2014
Young men who smoke marijuana may putting the morphology–size and shape–of their sperm at risk, according to new research on male fertility. More from CNN.com:
The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, looked at how a man’s lifestyle affects his sperm morphology: the size and shape of sperm. Researchers collected data from 1,970 men who provided semen as part of a fertility assessment.
All of the lifestyle information was self-reported, and researchers made no attempt to confirm accuracy. Of those men, 318 produced abnormal sperm, where less than 4% of it was the correct size and shape (as defined by the World Health Organization). The remaining men’s sperm had a higher percentage at a ”normal” size and shape.
“Cannabis smoking was more common in those men who had sperm morphology less than 4%,” Pacey said. “Cannabis affects one of the processes involved in determining size and shape. And we also know that the way cannabis is metabolized is different in fertile and infertile men.”
The study found that men who had less than 4% normal sperm were typically under 30 years old, had used marijuana within three months of giving their sample and were twice as likely to have provided their sample during the summer.
Any of those factors could have influenced sperm morphology, but Pacey said “the only thing we found that was a risk that a man can do something about was cannabis.”
Image: Smoke, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 24th, 2014
Exposure to marijuana may have effects that last for a generation, even if children are never directly exposed to the drug themselves, according to a new study that was conducted using laboratory rats. The study, which was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, found that adolescent rats who were exposed to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana smoke, affected the behavior of their offspring, who were not exposed to THC. Compulsive and addictive behaviors were found to be more common among the progeny. More from ScienceDaily:
“Our study emphasizes that cannabis [marijuana] affects not just those exposed, but has adverse affects on future generations,” said Yasmin Hurd, PhD, the study’s senior author, and professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Finding increased vulnerability to drug addiction and compulsive behavior in generations not directly exposed is an important consideration for legislators considering legalizing marijuana.”
In the study, Dr. Hurd and colleagues gave adolescent male rats 1.5 mg/kg of THC, similar to about one joint in human use. None of the rats had been exposed to THC before, but their parents were exposed to THC as teens and then mated later in life. THC-exposed offspring worked harder to self-administer heroin by pressing a lever multiple times to get a heroin infusion.
Although marijuana use and safety tends to be discussed in terms of its impact to the individual during the lifetime, few studies have addressed adverse effects in future generations. “What this opens up are many questions regarding the epigenetic mechanisms that mediate cross-generational brain effects,” said Dr. Hurd.
Image: Marijuana joint, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Sixty percent of U.S. high school seniors believe that smoking marijuana poses no health risks, according to newly released survey data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. CNN.com has more:
More than a third of the seniors surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the past 12 months.
Each year, the Monitoring the Future survey asks eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders about their drug and alcohol use and their attitudes toward illegal substances. For 2013, more than 41,000 students from 389 U.S. public and private schools participated.
Only 2.4% of high school seniors reported using marijuana daily in 1993; this year that percentage nearly tripled – to 6.5 %. And it’s not just the older students – more than 12% of the eighth-graders surveyed said they had used marijuana.
“It is important to remember that over the past two decades, levels of THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – have gone up a great deal,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a statement. “Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago. … The children whose experimentation leads to regular use are setting themselves up for declines in IQ and diminished ability for success in life.”
Teens also continue to abuse prescription medications such as Adderall, which is commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Vicodin. But while alcohol use is still high – close to 40% of seniors reported drinking in the past month – it’s been on a steady decline since its peak in 1997.
Image: Marijuana, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
Schools across the country are taking a fresh look at “zero tolerance” policies that enforce suspensions and expulsions if students are guilty of infractions–sometimes minor ones, others that have resulted in an arrest. Critics of the policies say they most affect minority students who are already at greater risk of performing poorly in school or dropping out altogether. More from The New York Times:
Perhaps nowhere has the shift been more pronounced than in Broward County’s public schools. Two years ago, the school district achieved an ignominious Florida record: More students were arrested on school campuses here than in any other state district, the vast majority for misdemeanors like possessing marijuana or spraying graffiti.
The Florida district, the sixth largest in the nation, was far from an outlier. In the past two decades, schools around the country have seen suspensions, expulsions and arrests for minor nonviolent offenses climb together with the number of police officers stationed at schools. The policy, called zero tolerance, first grew out of the war on drugs in the 1990s and became more aggressive in the wake of school shootings like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado.
But in November, Broward veered in a different direction, joining other large school districts, including Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago and Denver, in backing away from the get-tough approach.
Rather than push children out of school, districts like Broward are now doing the opposite: choosing to keep lawbreaking students in school, away from trouble on the streets, and offering them counseling and other assistance aimed at changing behavior.
These alternative efforts are increasingly supported, sometimes even led, by state juvenile justice directors, judges and police officers.
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