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Students Get Straight Talk About Marijuana

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ASHLAND - Local high school freshmen got something to ponder with
straight talk from a drug-abuse expert who's lived on both sides of
the drug issue.

Eric Martin, executive director of the Addiction Consumer
Certification Board of Oregon and a nationally recognized expert on
drug abuse, told freshman health classes Monday how marijuana affects
the human body. Martin also held a public forum for parents and teens
that night, and continued his discussions at the high school Tuesday.

Martin, who has 20 years of experience in the addiction-treatment
field, told a group of students that he frequently used marijuana
himself as a teen, so he has first-hand knowledge of the drug's
effects. He's also an instructor at the University of Oregon and an
adjunct faculty member at community colleges in the Portland area.

After getting in trouble with the law for his marijuana use when he
was 19, Martin became interested in the pull of addiction. Martin said
it's important to go to schools and give students the medical science
of drugs.

Martin's talk was apropos in the Ashland School District, whose
students regularly report a significantly higher marijuana use rate
than the rest of the state and the nation.

Martin said the federal government offers scant quality information on
marijuana abuse. That's why it's so imperative to make teens and those
in the community aware of the facts as he knows them.

"I don't take a position that marijuana is good or evil," Martin said.
"I talk about some of the effects. It makes it easier to have an
objective discussion free of arguments and talk about the science of

Freshman Nick Merrill, 15, appreciated the straight

"He wasn't like 'it's bad, it's bad,' he left it up to you," Merrill
said. "I totally respect that. He made it believable and

In his discussion with a health class Monday afternoon, Martin talked
about how most drugs, when they enter the brain, look like chemicals
the brain already produces, such as endorphins. He showed how drugs
like marijuana can damage brain cells through regular use, and how
much of the marijuana that is used is not as "natural" as some may

He also had students get into groups and write down what using
marijuana can do to a person's brain.

Martin said Ashland is way above the national average in marijuana use
according to three surveys, such as the 2002 Ashland Public Schools
Drug Use Survey Report.

For the Ashland survey, students were asked if they used marijuana in
the last 30 days; 39.8 percent of 12th-graders said they used
marijuana, compared to the national average of 21.5 percent.

With 10th-graders in Ashland, 31.7 percent said they used marijuana in
the past 30 days, compared to a national average of 17.8 percent.
Among eighth-graders, 18.8 percent reported using marijuana in the
past 30 days, compared to the 8.3 percent national average.

"The Ashland School District is trying to cope with a school
population with a high rate of consumption," Martin said. "It's not a
problem that's Ashland's alone. Oregon is above the national average."

Freshman health teacher Cecily Verloop said Martin helped clear up
misconceptions her students had about marijuana and other drug use.

"This gives them good information based on science," she said. "He
addressed a topic that's highly relevant in our area."

Pubdate: Fri, 19 Dec 2003
Source: Medford Mail Tribune (OR)
Copyright: 2003 The Mail Tribune
Contact: letters@mailtribune.com
Website: MailTribune.com: Local & World News, Sports & Entertainment in Medford, OR