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Heidi Swan Advocate for Marijuana Policy, Homelessness Prevention Advocate, Addiction, Substance Abuse Prevention, and Recovery
Heidi Anderson-Swan is the co-author of the Young Adult cautionary novella, A Night In Jail, a story about drugs and mental illness. The theme of the story is teen marijuana use is associated with serious adult mental illnesses. The story is inspired by her brother's true life as a homeless drug addict with schizophrenia who went to jail eighteen times. He co-wrote this fictional story with her. Here is a description:
"Busted for smoking pot, suburbanite college-bound Danny is incredulous when forced to spend the night in jail. He’s repulsed by his cellmate, a homeless and mentally ill drug addict who keeps him awake all night with his delusional rants. By morning Danny’s world is completely upended. A Night In Jail is a grim page-turner with a staggering ending."
Heidi also co produced a staged adaptation and a high school student-led short film based on the story. A former actress, Heidi graduated with a degree in Drama from The University of Washington.
Heidi is an advocate who speaks about the mental health harms of teen marijuana use including its relationship to homelessness.
WHY I SPEAK ON THIS TOPIC
Most people think teen marijuana use is harmless. But the science shows it can actually do long-term, and sometimes irreparable, damage to a person's brain. Is your teenager's brain worth the risk?
This is a message I am compelled to share with the world. It's information my brother and I wish we understood when we were teenagers. My brother and I began smoking pot in our early teens (this is back when pot was 3-5% THC). I had a psychotic experience while using it. This was very frightening for me so I only used it sporadically. My brother liked the "fun-house" experience it gave him. Thinking it was just normal teenage fun, he used it almost every day from middle school through graduate school (University of Southern California).
Marijuana use negatively affects a person's I.Q., memory and ability to learn. He failed the tests to practice in his field of study so he could only get minimum wage jobs.
He says his long-term use of pot made it easier for him to try other drugs. He fell in love with cocaine and then crack. He became a crack dealer. In short order, he was a homeless drug addict and dealer who went to jail eighteen times. Years later, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Marijuana is the recreational drug which is most strongly associated with psychosis and schizophrenia. The younger a person is when he/she starts using, the more frequently the use, the higher the dose, the greater the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia.
The vaping crisis has brought to light the alarmingly high THC products currently on the market: teens are vaping and dabbing 80%-plus THC waxes and oils. Therefore, the risk of acquiring all of the negative consequences (see below) has risen in tandem. Teenagers are the demographic which is suffering the most because their brains aren't finished developing until age 25. Of note: the vast majority of the studies have been done on moderate strength THC (10-20%). With the pot vaping crisis wreaking havoc on the physical health of users, we will soon discover the damaging effects to the brains, as well.
Our Surgeon General warned about the risk of teen marijuana use on August 29, 2019. He said, "Frequent marijuana use during adolescence is associated with:
- Changes in the areas of the brain involved in attention, memory, decision-making, and motivation. Deficits in attention and memory have been detected in marijuana-using teens even after a month of abstinence27.
- Impaired learning in adolescents. Chronic use is linked to declines in IQ, school performance that jeopardizes professional and social achievements, and life satisfaction28.
- Increased rates of school absence and drop-out, as well as suicide attempts29.
Risk for and early onset of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. The risk for psychotic disorders increases with frequency of use, potency of the marijuana product, and as the age at first use decreases30.
- Other substance use31, 32. In 2017, teens 12-17 reporting frequent use of marijuana showed a 130% greater likelihood of misusing opioids23.
Marijuana’s increasingly widespread availability in multiple and highly potent forms, coupled with a false and dangerous perception of safety among youth, merits a nationwide call to action."
I felt this call to action well before Dr. Jerome Adams issued it. But his message emboldens me even further.
Marijuana use and its popularity is on the rise. But it comes with great risk. Everyone must understand them and make their own educated decisions.
We only have one brain.