Resources on Youth, Vaping & Cannabis want to thank all the parents and youth who came to the cannabis forum informational event last Wednesday, October 17 at Manuel F. Cunha Intermediate School.You were very kind to me and to the other presenters. I was told that a link to this post was going to be made available to school parents and I see some people have already visited.

There are a great many sources of information about these sometimes controversial topics, and I have tried to limit myself to sources which I believe to be factual and to the extent possible, not controversial.

One of the things that we talked about at the forum is the fact that there are multi-billion dollar industries which want people to use nicotine and either the whole cannabis or its extract, THC. The purveyors of nicotine drug delivery systems are quick to point out that vaping is safer than smoking (still a somewhat controversial claim), but neglect to point out that breathing pure air is safer than vaping. The purveyors of THC will point out that you won’t suffer respiratory failure from THC overdose the way you do from alcohol overdose, but they won’t go out of the way to say  you are  at still more likely to crash your car if you drive high. Soda manufacturers won’t tell you that sugar rots your teeth, either. That’s life in America.

I have always strongly believed that knowledge is power, and I hope this will empower parents in talking to their kids. As I said at the forum, it’s never too soon to talk to talk to your kids about these risks, but you want to be armed with honest facts, not vague claims of, “it’s bad for you.” As Dr. O said so eloquently at the forum, you want to have the kind of open, loving relationship with your kids where these kinds of conversations can happen honestly.

Here are some web sites that give information on youth & substance use and substance use disorders:

The TEDS Report:  Age of first use of substances among people age 18-30 when admitted to substance abuse treatment programs.

FAQ’s from young people on alcohol/drug use from NCADD, 

Tobacco Prevention Tool Kit from Stanford.

SAMHSA free store of publications on a wide variety of topics.


In my own words, list of diagnostic criteria for substance use disorders:

  1. Had times when you used more, or for longer than you intended?
  2. More than once, wanted to cut down or quit, but you could not?
  3. Spent a lot of time getting it, using, it getting over the effects?
  4. Experienced craving?
  5. Using interfered with fulfilling job, family, or school obligations?
  6. Continued to do it even though it was causing problems with family & friends?
  7. Reduced or quit other activities that were important or interesting?
  8. Got into risky or dangerous situations due to use (for example, driving intoxicated)?
  9. Continued to use even if it made other problems, like depression or anxiety, worse?
  10. Experienced tolerance– having to use more than previously for the same effect?
  11. Experienced withdrawal– got sick from not getting it, or had to use a replacement?

mild= 2 or three symptoms

moderate = 4-5 symptoms

severe = 6+ symptoms

example: I want to vape, and if I don’t get to, I get cranky, irritable, and won’t feel right until I do. This would be criterion # 4, craving, along with #11, withdrawal, so right there I have a mild nicotine use disorder. If I get in trouble with my parents because they don’t want me doing it, and I risk getting busted because I’m using under age, one could say I meet #6 and #8, so that’s a moderate nicotine use disorder. The whole thing is not as clear-cut as this necessarily, but this gives a rough idea of how it works.

For a different view, here is the ASAM addiction definition  from the American Society for Addiction Medicine.

Statistics and studies on youth substance use:

NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) pamphlet on vaping

NIDA teens & e-cigarettes

New Yorker article on JUUL

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet on tobacco


Monitoring the future 2017

This is a national survey on youth and a wide variety of drug issues.

With introductory remarks & some additional links to vaping/cannabis info:

National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) 2017 This is a summary. The full NSDUH runs hundreds of pages and is a treasure trove for statistics nerds.

California Healthy Kids Survey is a statewide survey on a variety of issues including drugs, alcohol, tobacco, mental health, school safety.

CANNABIS HEALTH EFFECTS SUMMARY  This is the conclusions summary of a committee  from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine after an extensive review of the literature on the effects of cannabis. Highlights include that the committee found that there is substantial or conclusive evidence that cannabis is effective for chemotherapy-induced nausea and for treatment of chronic pain in adults and other potential benefits of medical use.

On the other hand, the committee also found out that there is substantial evidence for a statistical association between cannabis use and increased risk of motor vehicle crashes, substantial evidence of a statistical association between use and the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses, with the highest risk among the most frequent users, and moderate evidence of a statistical association between use increased incidence of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts with a higher incidence among heavier users.

The committee also found substantial evidence that initiating cannabis use at an earlier age is a risk factor for the development of problem cannabis use.

October 30, 2018 update: article on adolescent cannabis cessation from NPR

Please feel welcome to contact me.




About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
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