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CULTURE DIGEST: Parents urged to talk about marijuana; research shows pot impairs driving

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Parents can play a key role in whether their teenagers use marijuana, but an expert said too many parents are reluctant to set firm boundaries with the drug.

With daily marijuana use among young adults at the highest levels since 1991, USA Today highlighted a 23-year-old who could have benefited from his mother being more involved in his decisions about marijuana.

Justin Luke Riley started with "a little pot," then moved on to alcohol, cocaine or "whatever he could get his hands on," the newspaper said Oct. 17. By age 19, he was broke, homeless and headed for rehab.

His mother, Dianna Riley, said she wishes she had been harder on her son when she learned of his marijuana use. Instead, she didn't see the danger.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says about one in 10 people who try marijuana get addicted and younger users are more vulnerable. To help parents guide their teenagers away from the drug, USA Today offered this advice:

-- Talk to teenagers early and often about the risks of drugs, including addiction, learning problems and impaired driving.

-- Stop smoking marijuana or doing drugs in order to be a proper role model for teenagers.

-- Get over the feeling that because you used drugs you can't tell your teenager not to use them.

"Have an honest conversation about decisions you made then, why you think your teen should make different ones, and how today's marijuana is far stronger and more addictive," USA Today said.

-- Acknowledge the urge to experiment but underscore that trying marijuana even once can lead to trouble.

-- Watch teenagers closely enough to know if they have access to marijuana, and make clear that drinking and drugs at parties are unacceptable.

-- Communicate with teenagers, staying informed of the happenings in their lives and making sure they can talk to you about problems.


-- Ensure that teenagers are busy with after school activities that help them feel successful and supported.

-- Intervene quickly if you learn your teenager has started using drugs.

MARIJAUNA IMPAIRS DRIVING, RESEARCH INDICATES -- Drivers who test positive for marijuana within three hours of using the drug are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in crashes, according to a report from Columbia University.

Researchers said eight of nine studies validate the statistic, and they also found evidence that the more a person smokes marijuana the higher the risk of crashing a car, USA Today reported Oct. 18.

The analysis found that 28 percent of people killed in accidents and more than 11 percent of the general driver population tested positive for non-alcohol drugs, with marijuana being the most commonly detected substance, the newspaper said.

A professor of epidemiology at Columbia University who led the study said the results likely will have "major implications for driving safety and public policy," particularly in informing the debate over medical marijuana.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009 found that more than 10 million people age 12 or older were estimated to have driven under the influence of illicit drugs in the prior year, USA Today said.

TODD STARNES TAPPED FOR FOX COMMENTARY -- Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes, a former Baptist Press assistant editor, has been tapped by the network to deliver news commentary with a satirical spin.

"Fox News & Commentary with Todd Starnes," launching Nov. 7, will consist of three one-minute reports per day Monday through Friday on Fox News Radio.


"These commentaries will be a free-wheeling blend of journalism and editorial opinion with an added shot of satire mixed in," Fox said. "The reports will be filled with patriotic tales, political observations, riveting stories from the front lines of the culture wars as well as laughs and everyman advice."

During his time at Fox, Starnes has covered stories ranging from Wall Street to the White House and has appeared on Hannity and other Fox News Channel shows several times.

Starnes is the author of the book "They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick" and the upcoming book "Dispatches From Bitter America."

MERCYME VISITS MIDDLE EAST ON USO TOUR -- The Christian music group MercyMe visited more than 800 American troops in Bahrain and Dijbouti in September on their first USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour.

"I can't really express how much of a blessing this USO tour was for the band and myself. It was just amazing," lead singer Bart Millard said. "There is no greater sacrifice than self-sacrifice, and no one knows that better than our troops. 'Thank you' doesn't seem like enough, but I hope they realize how much we appreciate their service."

The USO is a private organization that lifts the spirits of American soldiers and their families through entertainment and innovative programs and services. During World War II, the USO presented more than 400,000 performances including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope.

MercyMe has been an avid supporter of the U.S. armed forces, and the band often donates concert tickets to troops and their families. They have invited fans to leave words of encouragement for servicemen on their website, and their 2009 song "Finally Home" was dedicated to America's heroes.


During their eight-day USO tour, MercyMe sang, signed autographs, posed for photos and expressed gratitude to the troops.

The band said they were somewhat apprehensive about traveling to the Middle East, given the media's representation of the region, but once they spent time with the troops, their fears subsided.

"I continue to think about the sacrifices our troops are making," Millard said. "It was nice to visit, but to be away from my family for six months to a year would be very hard for me. I cannot say 'thank you' to them enough."

Some of the band members have had fathers and other loved ones who served in the military, so the trip hit close to home, they said.

Erin Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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