Project SAMUEL’s Dr. Thurstone warns about kids shooting up marijuana
Project SAMUEL Board Member Dr. Christian Thurstone wrote recently about the threat to our children from the legalization of marijuana. Dr. Thurstone’s state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar rehabilitation facility in Denver has been bursting with young victims of marijuana addiction, leading Dr. Thurstone to predict the next horror that awaits: shooting marijuana straight into the veins!
Marijuana’s THC levels have increased substantially in the last 40 years. In the 1960s and ’70s, marijuana’s THC levels averaged around 2 percent. Today, they easily exceed 10 percent. In medical marijuana states, including Colorado, where I live, potent strains frequently falling into adolescents’ hands top 40 percent THC.
Then there’s the concentrated form of THC, commonly called hash oil, that is extracted from the plant and added to foods and drinks and inhaled through smokeless vaporizers. THC concentrate can exceed 90 percent.
It is reasonable now to question how much longer it will be before we see injection use of THC — especially as marijuana is legalized.
It is important that parents be aware of this potential future danger. If you find that your teenager is hiding strands of surgical tubing, stealing hypodermic needles, and smells like a skunk, he or she may riding that THC dragon straight to addiction!
Dr. Thurstone also points out how the rapid increase in marijuana’s potency has led to far more teens becoming dope slaves:
In the last several months, my colleagues and I have noticed rising levels of THC in the urine of our young patients.
At the same time THC has risen, so has adolescent marijuana use. Consider this from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Survey:
- In 1991, 8 percent of the nation’s high school students reported past-month marijuana use. The past-month use rate reported last year was 15.5 percent.
- In 1991, 0.9 percent of the nation’s high school students reported daily use. Last year it was 3.5 percent.
We’ve provided this handy chart that tracks average potency of marijuana and sinsemilla (the “Not Your Father’s Woodstock Weed”) seized by the government since 1985 and compared that to the monthly rate of marijuana use for 12-17 year-olds. As you can see, when marijuana potency goes up, one third of the time teen marijuana use goes up. And marijuana use and potency are much higher today that they were in 1991, despite yesteryear’s potency being lower and teen use being much higher in 1997 and 1985.
Dr. Thurstone is also very aware that this rise in marijuana potency is driving marijuana addicts to seek rehab in record numbers. Back in 2000, one out of every 810 monthly marijuana smokers voluntarily admitted to rehab for marijuana alone. By 2010, that number has become one out of every 944, but since there are seven million more marijuana smokers now, that works out to 55 million more marijuana addicts seeking treatment.
What I do know is that marijuana abuse is the No. 1 reason adolescents are admitted for substance abuse treatment in the United States. I also know that most of my patients come to my clinic voluntarily. Few are referred there through the courts.
Dr. Thurstone owns a private rehab. Like many private rehabs that handle 42% of the nation’s rehab business, the admissions data are not part of the “Treatment Episode Data Set – Admissions” database collected by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Data Archive. The 58% who are covered in TEDS-A are usually too poor and disadvantaged to afford a private rehab if they wish to recover from their marijuana addiction, which is why, for rehab admissions for marijuana alone, TEDS-A data shows one self-referral for every four court-ordered referrals. But it’s completely different at Dr. Thurstone’s rehab. As he explained:
It’s also important for people to understand that private treatment centers don’t often participate in TEDS. As the study states: “In general, facilities reporting TEDS data are those that receive State alcohol and/or drug agency funds (including Federal Block Grant funds) for the provision of alcohol and/or drug treatment services.” People who are court-referred are more likely to go to publicly funded treatment programs.
This is obvious when one notes that while there’s one self-rehab for every four court-rehabs for pot alone, there are two self-rehabs for every one court-rehab for any other illegal drug alone. That’s because people who are addicted to cocaine, meth, heroin, and other drugs would rather check themselves in to a public, TEDS-reporting rehab with all the court-sentenced pot smokers than check themselves in to a private rehab like Dr. Thurstone’s. We will post Dr. Thurstone’s admission data as soon as it is publicly available.