Strategizing to Combat the Spread of Marijuana, a Dangerous Trend for Liberian Youth

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Nearly every week in recent times the media have carried major stories on the seizure of marijuana somewhere in Liberia. 

Yesterday’s back page lead story on Daily Observer’s was no exception.  Our reporter   Alvin Worzi told the nation in that story yesterday that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had over the weekend discovered L$600,000 worth of marijuana in the ELWA Community. 

Even more alarming was DEA Director Anthony Souh’s declaration that supply of the contraband (illegal goods) in the country was widespread, to the extent that it was being grown on several farms around the country.  There are indications that such farms are located, for starts, right here in Montserrado, but also in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties.  This suggests that this nation is in for a long, tough, intractable battle with marijuana suppliers, if our youth are to be protected from this most dangerous scourge.  

Many studies over the years have confirmed extremely harmful effects of marijuana on the brain, especially of young people.  That is why the drug has been banned for decades in the United States and many other parts of the world.

A study published last Wednesday in the Journal of Neuroscience through the collaborative effort between Northwestern University's Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School showed a direct correlation between the number of times users smoked and abnormalities in the brain.

Young, casual marijuana smokers experience potentially harmful changes to their brains, with the drug altering regions of the mind related to motivation and emotion, researchers found.

"What we're seeing is changes in people who are 18 to 25 in core brain regions that you never, ever want to fool around with," said co-senior study author Dr. Hans Beiter, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University.

In particular, the study identified changes to the nucleus accumbens and the nucleus amygdala, regions of the brain that are key to regulating emotion and motivation, in marijuana users who smoke between one and seven joints a week.

The researchers found changes to the volume, shape and density of those brain regions. But more studies are needed to determine how those changes may have long-term consequences and whether they can be fixed with abstinence, Beiter said.

At this low stage of Liberia’s development, when so many newer nations are far ahead of us in so many respects, and our educational system is confronted with so many rudimentary challenges, we cannot afford this further distraction that could destroy the thinking faculties and the normal function of our children’s brains.

But this is a challenge not for the government alone; all educational, religious, civic and social organizations must get involved in the fight against this blight which, if not tackled immediately, could have a devastating effect on our youth and our national progress.

The Ministries of Justice, Education, Health and Social Welfare, the National Drug Enforcement Agency, the Liberia National Students Union (LINSU), the National Students Christian Council   (NSCC) and other related Non-Governmental Organizations need to join forces and develop a coherent and workable strategy to combat the spread of marijuana in our country.

This is an urgent challenge.    The sooner we can organize the forces to begin strategizing to arrest this scourge, the better for our nation’s future.

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