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The Nation's Drug Czar, John P. Walters, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Administrator, Charles G. Curie, recently joined with scientists and experts from the leading mental health organizations to alert parents about the danger marijuana poses to their teens' mental health.

"A growing body of evidence now demonstrates that smoking marijuana can increase the risk of serious mental health problems," said Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "New research being conducted here and abroad illustrates that marijuana use, particularly during the teen years, can lead to depression, thoughts of suicide, and schizophrenia. This is yet another reason that parents must stay closely involved with their teens and ensure that they are not smoking marijuana."

A recent report from SAMSHA found that adults who first used marijuana before age 12 were twice as likely as adults who first used marijuana at age 18 or older to be classified as having serious mental illness in the past year than were adults who first used marijuana at age 18 or older.

Several recent studies have linked youth marijuana use with depression, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia:

* Young people who use marijuana weekly have double the risk of developing depression.

* Teens aged 12 to 17 who smoke marijuana weekly are three times more likely than non-users to have suicidal thoughts.

* Marijuana use in some teens has been linked to increased risk for schizophrenia in later years.

On the Media Campaign's Web site for parents,, parents can learn more about how marijuana affects the developing teen brain, including the links between marijuana and depression, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia.

Marijuana and Mental Health Ten Ways to Tell if Your Teen Needs Help 1. A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns Sleep disturbance may show up as all-night television watching, difficulty in getting up for school, or sleeping during the day. Loss of appetite may become anorexia or bulimia. Eating too much may result in weight gain and obesity.

2. Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school Teens may be depressed, stop attending school, miss classes, and their school work may suddenly change for the worse. They may actually be depressed but not know it. They may exhibit lack of motivation and lowered energy levels.

3. Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior like drug and alcohol abuse Parents sometimes feel uncomfortable when talking to teens about death. However, asking whether a teenager is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Rather than "putting thoughts in a young person's head," asking a question can provide assurance that somebody cares.

4. Increased irritability, anger, or hostility Depressed teens are often irritable, taking out most of their anger on their family. They may attack others by being critical, sarcastic, or abusive. They may also suddenly have no interest in maintaining former friendships.

5. A sense of hopelessness Teens may feel that life is not worth living or worth the effort to even maintain their appearance or hygiene. They may believe that a negative situation will never change and be pessimistic about their future. They may also experience sudden emotional outbursts.

6. Low self-esteem and guilt Teens may assume blame for negative events or circumstances. They may feel like a failure and have negative views about their competence and self-worth. They feel as if they are not good enough.

7. Decreased interest in activities Teens may become apathetic and drop out of clubs, sports, and other activities they once enjoyed. Not much seems fun anymore to a depressed teen.

8. Poor communication and social isolation There may be a lack of connection with friends and family. Teens may avoid family gatherings and events, or spend much of their time alone.

9. Low self-esteem and guilt and extreme sensitivity to rejection Teens may assume blame for negative events or circumstances. They may feel like failures and have negative views about their competence and self-worth.

10. Poor concentration Teens may have trouble concentrating on schoolwork, following a conversation, or even watching television.

For more information on the ONDCP National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, please call Gina Screen at (703) 683-7742 or visit

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