FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States and tends to be the first illegal drug teens use.

Eric Powell, education coordinator, Community Wellness Center at Fort McPherson, plans to de-glamorize the drug with youths by educating students early in life. He encourages them to plant a different seed during the week to represent a bright future - tulips.

The week serves as a vehicle for communities and individuals to take a stand for the children through a commitment to drug prevention and education with the ultimate goal being the creation of drug free America.

Marijuana use is on the list. The physical effects of marijuana use, particularly on developing adolescents, can be acute.

Short-term effects of using marijuana include:
- Sleepiness
- Difficulty keeping track of time, impaired or reduced short-term memory
- Reduced ability to perform tasks requiring concentration and coordination, such as driving a car
- Increased heart rate
- Potential cardiac dangers for those with preexisting heart disease
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dry mouth and throat
- Decreased social inhibitions
- Paranoia, hallucinations

Long-term effects of using marijuana:
- Enhanced cancer risk
- Decrease in testosterone levels for men; also lower sperm counts and difficulty having children
- Increased risk of infertility
- Diminished or extinguished sexual pleasure
- Psychological dependence requiring more of the drug to get the same effect
- Marijuana blocks the messages going to thebrain and alters perceptions and emotions, vision, hearing and coordination.

A recent study of 1,023 trauma patients admitted to a shock trauma unit found that one-third had marijuana in their blood.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16