Alyssa Langdale told her mom she needed marijuana for anxiety. She needed it to sleep. It was harmless, she said.
But now, Alyssa is dead and so is her brother Corey.
Karen Bailey, 48, of Ocala, Florida,who lost both of her children to drugs, blames marijuana for putting them on that deadly path.
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After a serious battle with drug addiction, 25-year-old Alyssa killed herself in March. Corey was 24 when he died of an overdose in 2011.
Bailey, meanwhile, has committed her life to educating people about the dangers of drugs.
She is not at all surprised at the results of a RAND Corp. study published this month in the medical journal Pediatrics that suggests 12-year-olds who saw marijuana in a positive light were more likely to drive under the influence when they were 16, or get in the car with a driver who was under the influence.
Twelve-year-olds who saw marijuana in a positive light were more likely to drive under the influence when they were 16, research says.
She said it adds to the growing body of research about marijuana and its potential connection to risky behavior in young people as they age. The politics behind pot appear to be contributing to the problem.
“As medical and recreational marijuana legalization increases in our country, adolescents are becoming more accepting of marijuana use,” said Elizabeth D’Amico, the principal investigator of the study and a senior behavioral scientist at RAND, a global policy think tank.
“This highlights the need to address these types of beliefs as early as sixth grade,” she told LifeZette.
Middle school, though, is not soon enough for some anti-drug activists.
“Starting at age 12 is really kind of late because we have a lot of 12-year-olds that have already initiated drug use in this country,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of Drug Free America.
Fay said while she finds the RAND study disturbing, she’s not at all surprised at the results. She said the study supports national surveys that have been around for many years.
“Over and over and over, consistently, when young people view drugs to be not so harmful, use goes up, and when that view of harm goes up, use drops.”
In fact, RAND researchers reported a startling fact in July: Over the past several years, medical marijuana has gotten more attention in the media, and use of the drug has risen drastically in the United States.
RAND’s study about medical marijuana and advertising reports the number of frequent users has gone up by 40 percent since 2006.
Fay and the nonprofit organization she leads are working to undo the damage such advertising and other legalization efforts have done to young people in the United States. She said you can’t teach a child a math equation in fifth grade, never bring it up again, and then expect him to remember it in high school.
“We need consistent drug education with our kids,” she said.
Both Fay and Bailey agreed that marketing pot as medicine will turn out to be more harmful to kids as they grow up.
“I think we, as a society, have given them the message ‘Here, smoke a little weed, it’ll make it better,’” Bailey told LifeZette.
“Life is hard. These kids need all their brain functions. They need it to get through life, and this is irreversible damage to the adolescent brain and that’s why I hate to see it move forward,” she said.”
“I think 20 years from now we’re going to be seeing a mess.”