By Dr. Jan Hittelman

Recently, voters in Colorado approved the legalization of Marijuana. While the potential impacts of this decision continue to be debated, one likely result will be the perception on the part of many adolescents that because it’s legal that means it’s also safe. Ironically, two of the most lethal drugs on the planet have been legal for years; cigarettes and alcohol. No two drugs can claim a higher death toll, let alone the other physical and emotional consequences of chronic tobacco and alcohol use. Another quickly emerging substance abuse concern centers around prescription medications. It is increasingly common for adolescents to experiment with highly addictive and dangerous prescription drugs, often found in the family medicine cabinet. Here too, many adolescents have the potentially deadly misperception that because it’s legal, it’s not dangerous. As parents, it is critical that we initiate conversations with our adolescents about these legal but lethal drugs. Research is clear that the likelihood of teens engaging in any at-risk behavior is dramatically reduced when parents have these discussions on a regular basis.