July 15, 2021

North County Teens Warn of Negative Impacts Marijuana Use Has on Mental Health

Erica Leary, MPH, Program Manager, Vista Community Clinic

“Smoking Is Not Coping” Message Spread Through Social Media and Collaboration


According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there has been a 74% increase in the percentage of adolescents aged 12 to 17 with a past year Major Depressive Episode (MDE) between 2004 and 2019 (see graph).

Recent studies have found that youth who use marijuana are at greater risk for mental health problems including depression and anxiety

Though fewer than 1 in 5 high school juniors reported current substance use, past 30 day use of marijuana was higher than that of alcohol for the first time in 2019 in Oceanside and Vista School Districts (2019 California Healthy Kids Survey).

Both statistics and personal experiences led members of the Be the Resistance Club at Oceanside High School to implement several strategies to prevent and reduce youth marijuana use.  Be the Resistance Club is facilitated by the North Coastal Prevention Coalition and Vista Community Clinic and supported by Friday Night Live and the County of San Diego's Behavioral Health Services.

In March 2021, the Be the Resistance Club partnered with the Institute for Behavior and Health and the Center for Community Research's Marijuana Prevention Initiative to facilitate a virtual community forum for teens and parents.  Nearly 70 participants joined and learned how substance use impacts adolescent brain development.

In April 2021, the club helped promote the North Coastal Prevention Coalition's Annual 420 Remix PSA contest to middle and high school students throughout the county.  This years’ theme promoted the ‘Smoking is Not Coping’ campaign created by teens involved in the District Attorney’s North County Stakeholders group.  The PSA entries were created to raise awareness of the risks of adolescent marijuan use. 

“Teenagers are going through a tough time right now ,” stated Alycia Rankin, a student from Vista Magnet Middle School and NCPC Committee video PSA contest winner. “Even when going through emotional struggles, marijuana may make it worse. The side effects can be especially damaging to teenagers and their development. That is what inspired me to encourage others not to use marijuana.”

Through collaboration with Escondido Education COMPACT, one of the winning entries was formatted into a digital billboard and displayed along the 15 freeway at North County Fair.

Be the Resistance Club members have also shared their concerns about marijuana access and marketing with elected officials at the local and state level. With the continued expansion of marijuana for adult/recreational use, increased efforts will be needed to prevent adolescent marijuana use.

“Our club and the North Coastal Prevention Coalition will not give up,” stated Madison Matella, Be the Resistance Club President. “We know that more marijuana in Oceanside is not the solution – it’s a problem. It’s a problem in families, it’s a problem we see among our peers, and it’s a problem for many we see on our streets.”