Viewpoint: Marijuana, prescription abuse still a concern
May 20, 2014 | 771 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marijuana use and prescription drug abuse are widespread problems in the United States.

In 2012, 18.9 million people age 12 or older used marijuana, and approximately 1 in 4 of them used marijuana on a daily or almost daily basis.

In addition, an estimated 8.9 million people age 12 or older used other illicit drugs in the past month, most commonly prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes. Use and abuse of illicit and prescription drugs can result in short-term side effects, including hallucinations, dangerous levels of dehydration and overheating, and feelings of sadness, anxiety and depression. Their use also carries long-term consequences, such as liver and lung disease, heart failure, coma and death.

A serious concern is that usage trends show some increases, specifically among young adults:

1. Since 2006, there has been a 74.2 percent increase in the number of people age 12 or older who used marijuana on a daily or almost-daily basis in the past year.

2. In 2012, young adults ages 18-25 were more than twice as likely as people age 12-17, and 26 and older, to have used illicit drugs in the past month. The rate of use among 18- to 25-year olds (21.3 percent) has also risen over the past 10 years.

Drugs can impair perception, cognition, attention, balance, coordination, reaction time and other capabilities needed for daily activities such as driving. Operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs puts the safety of drivers, passengers, pedestrians and others on the road at risk.

The Cleveland and Bradley County community can help change these numbers. Statistics show that a person’s willingness and ability to use illicit drugs is directly impacted by the attitudes and actions of friends and relatives. Over 50 percent of people age 12 or older in 2011-12 who used pain relievers nonmedically in the past year got them from a friend or relative.

Furthermore, in the past year, youth age 12-17 who believed their parents would strongly disapprove of their using specific substances were less likely to use those substances. Even one person’s actions can have an important effect on a loved one’s health and future.

With the release of the 2013 National Drug Control Policy, it offers us a blueprint on how we can work together with our federal partners to help address these issues locally. While some abuse of substances has declined, we still have a long way to go before we completely tackle all issues surrounding substance abuse. We, as a community, need to come together and educate ourselves, and take steps to create a safe, drug-free environment for our families.

Parents, get involved in your child’s day-to-day activities and discuss the risks of using illicit and prescription drugs. By being involved early and consistently, you can help prevent problems before they occur. Parents should also securely store prescription drugs and dispose of unused supplies.

Workplaces, drug-free workplace programs can help employers create cost-effective, safe and healthy workplaces.

Studies have indicated that successful drug-free workplace programs generally have at least five key components:

1. A written policy;

2. Employee education;

3. Supervisor training;

4. An employee assistance program, or EAP; and

5. Drug testing.

Before considering these five components, employers should examine the needs of their organizations and take steps to ensure that the programs they design will work well in their workplaces.

The mission of the GRAAB Coalition is to bring together concerned members and service providers of the community to facilitate lowering the misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, as well as other addictive behaviors, in Bradley County, by providing effective education, recovery and support for youth, families and the community.

For more information on this topic, additional GRAAB programming or volunteer opportunities available from the GRAAB Coalition, call us at 423-472-5800 or

Visit our website for regular updates as well,


(About the writer: Tanya Southerland is the executive director of Going Respectively Against Abusive Behaviors, a nonprofit organization in Cleveland and Bradley County that combats alcohol and drug abuse in this community. The organization is known by most as the GRAAB Coalition. In observation of National Prevention Week 2014, she is providing a series of guest “Viewpoints” on behalf of the GRAAB Coalition.)