What do you think of when you think of ‘the most dangerous drug out there’? Methamphetamine, opiates, oxycodone, crack cocaine?
The answer is…none of the above, according to Douglas Marlowe, chief of science, law and policy at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. “The most dangerous drug on the street today is marijuana,” said Marlowe, when he spoke to an audience at the 2014 National Council for Behavioral Health conference in Washington D.C. about making treatment more effective by carefully matching an individual’s criminological risk-and-needs profile to a specific treatment plan.
He then answered the question the audience was dying to know: Why is marijuana the most dangerous drug out there?
“Because everyone thinks it’s safe,” Marlowe explained. “And because it’s a pediatric onset use.”
Because individuals rarely start to use methamphetamine or other illicit drugs at an early age when their brains are still developing, he believes this early pediatric use makes marijuana a more dangerous drug.
He also reminded the audience that the average reduction of IQ points for adolescent onset marijuana abuse syndrome is five to eight IQ points. “Eight for severe use, five for weekly but not severe use,” Marlowe said. “Let that sink in.”
Knowing this information, providers and clinicians should be aware that kids who start using marijuana in early adolescence are going to be harder to treat. Therefore they have a poorer prognosis, and will have to be treated differently than the ones with late onset, he explained.