Dear Straight Talk: I'm in eighth grade and my best friends are starting to smoke weed. One is getting it from his parent's supply and they are doctors. I don't want to smoke it but they say everyone does it and our parents did, too, and there is nothing harmful about it. What do you make of their claims? — "James," Lodi
Colin, 19, Los Angeles: Marijuana isn't as hardcore as meth or cocaine, but teen marijuana smokers are averaging an 8-point drop in IQ — permanently. There is also the trade, which is dominated by Mexican drug cartels using brutality right out of the Middle Ages. Do you really want to support that? Finances? It's expensive. Illegal? Yes. I choose not to smoke marijuana. I am perfectly happy as I am.
Brandon, 20, Mapleton, Maine: Pot is, sadly, the new cool thing in middle school. Yes, your parents may have experimented with pot (I know mine did). They grew up in the "freedom-peace-love" era and didn't understand the risks of starting young. I am completely against youth smoking. If you want to get into it as an adult, that's your call. But smoking young WILL affect you negatively. Regarding friends, they come and go. The last time I saw my eighth-grade friends was three years ago. Worry about advancing yourself, your education and your future. I guarantee you can find friends who don't smoke weed.
Katelyn, 17, Azusa: Recent research shows that while smoking pot may make you feel smarter in the present, it severely impacts your future learning abilities. Listen to your instincts!
Christina, 20, Marysville: I have seen people changed negatively by it — even when they're not high. From what I've observed, pot has a worse effect on youth than adults.
Kira, 20, Moraga: Eighth grade is WAY too young! The earliest my friends started was sophomore year. I didn't try it till senior year and nobody pressured me. Personally, I don't like it, plus I get drug tested to play a college sport.
Taylor, 15, Santa Rosa: All my friends have done it. I do think eighth grade is too young, but I knew people who did it in seventh. I have seen some people lose themselves and go south. I have also seen straight-A students who get away with smoking every now and then.
The Dunedin Study followed more than 1,000 New Zealand youths born in 1972, testing them starting at age 13 before any had started smoking pot, and concluding the study when they were 38. The study ruled out changes in IQ that might be due to educational differences, alcohol and other drugs. Those who smoked four times a week starting as teens showed an average 8-point decline in IQ that didn't rebound after they quit as adults.
This has huge ramifications for our schools, both public and private. With fewer adolescent believing that pot use is harmful, use has been driven younger and younger, into our middle schools. Daily use among teens is at a 30-year peak. A 2011 survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland found that about 6 percent of 12th graders smoked pot 20 or more times in the 30 days before the survey. Almost half had tried pot at least once.
According to the 2012 National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse's annual back-to-school survey, teens who say their parents are more laid back about drug use are more likely to drink or use drugs. And teens who are left alone overnight (almost 30 percent of those surveyed) are almost twice as likely to drink or use pot, and three times more likely to use tobacco, than kids with parents home. About 60 percent of those surveyed described their schools (both public and private) as "drug-infected."
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