Do you know the risks?

Cathy Brownfield

Common sense. Did your parents ever tell you to use common sense? It’s something we’ve all been hearing about … negatively … in that no one seems to know much about it these days. Have you heard this recently?

            Common sense is “good sense and sound judgement to practical matters” (Oxford Languages); “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts” (Merriam-Webster). “Common sense is the knowledge that all humans have … unspoken and unwritten” ( As in animals don’t play baseball or my mother is older, more experienced with life and wiser than I am.

            Common sense is to not put your hand into an open fire or anything that can injure you. Common sense is when you are sick, stay home. Common sense is when you are under the influence of a drug or alcohol, don’t drive a car.

            One of the most challenging things for a human being to do is to be honest with self. We tend to be our own worst enemies, particularly skilled in denial. It’s so easy to say, ”I’m OK to drive.” But, well, are you? Driving is a privilege, not a right.

            So, you ask, what is she getting at? Just get to the point.

            Family Safety and Health Magazine references a press release from Boston Medical Center: “Car crash deaths involving cannabis increasing and more likely to involve alcohol.”

            It’s a controversial issue, marijuana, sure to stir up ire when discussions get heated. But common sense … doesn’t common sense suggest that if there is any chance at all that using it and then driving could hurt or kill someone, isn’t it better to err on the side of caution and get a designated driver who is not using, like folks do when they are consuming alcohol?

            Several years ago (2017) people questioned the risks of marijuana, sources arguing that there was no evidence that proved any increase in crash deaths because of the legalization of marijuana. In October 2021, Boston Medical Center released information from a new study that says “between 2000 and 2018 the percentage of car crash deaths in the U.S. involving cannabis have doubled and the percentage of deaths involving both cannabis and alcohol, have more than doubled.”

            The report goes on to say, “…the study suggests … that cannabis and alcohol are increasingly being used together when it comes to impaired driving, and that cannabis increases the likelihood of alcohol use in car crash deaths.”

            Researchers studied data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, looking at car crash fatalities in which the driver tested positive for a cannabinoid and/or any amount of alcohol in their system, the press release explained.

            “The results also show that cannabis-involved car crashes are more likely to involve the deaths of passengers as well as individuals younger than 35 compared to crash deaths not involving cannabis.”

            Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S., according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.) All age groups, both sexes, and pregnant women are using it. Many young people do not perceive it to be risky. “It’s just marijuana.”

            But it isn’t just marijuana. There are approximately 500 chemicals in marijuana today, including THC. One in 10 people who use it will become addicted. Using it before age 18 increases the risks to one in six. It affects brain health and the loss is permanent. No one knows if it causes anxiety, depression, psychotic episodes or suicide planning, but use has been linked to those things.

            Use in pregnancy may cause premature birth, stillbirth, interfere with brain development and other issues. Athletes? Using marijuana can adversely affect your abilities.

            SAMHSA says people who use marijuana are more likely to have relationship problems, worse educational outcomes, lower career achievement and less satisfaction with life.

            “Marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug,” reports the Marijuana Research Project (MRP) ( “Marijuana use disorder becomes addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of his or her life.”

            The MRP goes on to say that in 2015, about 4 million people in the U.S. met the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder with 138,000 voluntarily seeking treatment.

            Common sense question: How would you feel if someone under the influence crashed into your car, taking the life of your child? Conscience question: What is your stake in impaired driving?

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or email, Visit the website at FRC is funded in part by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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