Oregon City Together just released some results from the 2018 Oregon Student Wellness survey of all sixth, eighth and 11 graders in the area. These results show marijuana use is steadily increasing across all three age groups. It still remains among a minority number of students, but no matter — it is going in the wrong direction — up.
This, of course, concerns parents and family members. But it should concern all of us. Why? Because the state of our youth today is critical to Oregon City's future. Teens are the people who will be running the city in 20 to 30 years or so. They are tomorrow's voters and leaders.
As adults, we need to get ahead of the trend of increased youth marijuana use in our community, not kick the can down the road and ignore it.
Many individual and societal variables help determine a teen's future. Supportive parents and family, economy, affordable housing, quality education, access to health care to name a few. But being drug free is a big one. Yes, really!
Earlier this month, the American Journal of Psychiatry published results of a new research study of 3,800 teens ages 13 to 17 showing marijuana has a worse impact on the developing brains of teenagers than even alcohol.
Specifically, the study found marijuana affected teens' long-term cognitive abilities. Researchers also found teens' memory and reasoning didn't improve even after they stopped using marijuana.
Again, this should concern everyone in our community. What may be OK for adults is not OK for youth.
Speaking of the teen brain, one of the most alarming results from the Oregon Student Wellness Survey is that fewer and fewer students think using marijuana is harmful. For example, the perception of harm of using marijuana dropped from 80 percent to 62 percent among sixth graders. Think about it, just a tad more than half of the 11-year-old kids in our community think marijuana is harmful. And only 37 percent of Oregon City 11th graders think it is harmful.
Their inaccurate perception is risky. Perception of harm goes down, marijuana use generally goes up.
So what can we do? Tell our kids about the very real risks of using marijuana. Start early and tell them often. Give them the facts they need to make healthy decisions.
Join Oregon City Together and work with others in the community. Oregon City Together is a local coalition of parents, youth, school district, schools, law enforcement, past and current elected officials, faith-based organizations, and agencies and other organizations serving youth. Coalition members focus on preventing youth marijuana use and underage drinking in our community. We provide education and support, and work to create an environment that discourages youth drug use.
Oregon City's future depends on us doing our job to ensure youth have what they need to grow into healthy, successful adults.
Brian Shaw is a member of the board of directors for Oregon City Together.