More than 300 people turned out for the city of Santa Clarita’s “Immature Teen Brain on Pot” symposium Wednesday evening at the Santa Clarita Activities Center.
The symposium provided information to help parents protect and educate their children about the short term and long term mental and physical effects of smoking marijuana.
The symposium featured a panel of speakers including officials from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Department, Action Family Counseling, A Light of Hope, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital and the William S. Hart Union High School District.
The common misconception is that simply because marijuana can be deemed ‘legal’ with a prescription, this does not make it safe or smart, according to city officials in a news release.
Many people think that marijuana has no long term consequences, according to Dr. Darrin Privett, a physician at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.
“There is no doubt that when anybody ingests drugs, there is structural damage to the brain that can cause long term effects,” said Privett. “The high is a lie and drug abuse is a preventable behavior.”
In 2009, 53 percent of high school seniors said occasional marijuana use is harmful, said Privett. In 2014, 36 percent of high school seniors thought that it was harmful.
“All drug abuse starts innocently,” said Cary Quashen, the founder of Action Family Counseling. “Nobody decides to grow up and be a drug addict.”
“We’ve seen the number of drug related incidents has dropped about 30 percent over the last couple years,” said Vicki Engbrecht, superintendent at William S. Hart Union High School District. “The cool kids are (now) the ones that have plan for their lives and know where they’re going and behave in a positive manner.”
A program known as “DFYIT,” or Drug Free Youth in Town, has been effective in lowering the amount of drug-related incidents on school campuses, according to Engbrecht.
“DFYIT” is a free, school-based, voluntary, anti-drug club for high school teens, according to their website.
“I think we’re starting to make a difference,” said Engbrecht.
Wednesday night’s symposium was the fifth in the city’s “Heroin Kills” series.
“The city is committed to educating teens and parents of teens on the perils of drug use, including marijuana,” said Mayor Marsha McLean in a news release. “Through our various teen-focused programs, like the Heroin Kills series, we hope to bring more attention to the dangerous realities of drug use.”