A recent survey shows cannabis use among teenagers is increasing while alcohol and tobacco use are down. Now health professionals are concerned. 

The 2019 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey found an increase in teens using cannabis. University of Vermont Medical Center Child Psychiatrist Dr. David Rettew said we are moving further away from it being a natural product. 

“People are using much higher potency products, and it does look like these products that are 60, 70, 80% THC, carry additional risks,” Dr. Rettew said. 

Dr. Rettew is concerned about the risks the drug has on the developing brain. 

“There is more and more evidence that cannabis use is related to the development of sycosis, psychotic disorders, depression, suicide and worse anxiety,” Dr. Rettew said. 

Dr. Rettew said cannabis users commonly wind up in their emergency rooms. He believes marketing is leading young people to perceive marijuana as safe and healthy.

“I sometimes say it’s not the most dangerous substance on earth, but I can’t think of anything else where there is a bigger difference between the perceived danger and the actual danger,” Dr. Rettew said. 

The Director of the Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community Mariah Flynn Sanderson said the earlier people start using, the worse the outcomes are.

“So, we know that 90% of the people that develop a substance use disorder, started using before the age of 18,” Sanderson said. 

The increase in teen marijuana use occurred as Vermont legalized adult possession and use in 2018. Sanderson believes as a society we need to think of ways we can delay all types of substance use.

“The more that we talk about it, the more that we normalize it,” Sanderson said. “The more kids see adults using, the more likely they are to start using.” 

Sanderson said this starts with educating teens and parents about the drug’s risks.


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