By Dean Stephensdstephens@abcnews4.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- It's a problem blazing its way through college athletics. According to numbers released by the National Center for Drug Free Sport, the use of marijuana is on the rise with student-athletes.
A drug testing expert told The Associated Press the recent bust of four football players at a major institution should get the attention of college administrators.
"I hope they don't see this event at TCU as an isolated incident. It's not," said Andrea Wickerham, Vice-President of the National Center Drug Free Sport. "The question is, what does TCU do about it, and what do other college administrators do?"
On February 15, four football players at TCU were arrested on drug charges, including selling marijuana.
In 2009, 22.6 percent of 25,000 student athletes surveyed by the NCAA said they used marijuana in the previous 12 months, a 1.2 percent increase from the year before.
According to the NCAA's findings in 2009, male lacrosse players used marijuana more than any other athlete at 48 percent, followed by wrestlers (27.7), hockey players (27.4) and then football players (26.7).
Dr. Suzanne Thomas, the Director of Addiction Education and Outreach at MUSC's Charleston Alcohol Research Center says the increase in marijuana use reflects society's inability to communicate the risks of using the drug.
"The rise in marijuana use over the past few years, and especially among young people, suggests that we are not effectively communicating that using marijuana is still hazardous," Thomas said.
New research indicates that marijuana use is not only on the rise with college athletes, but our youth as well.
A recent survey conducted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse found that marijuana use by eighth graders increased from 2009 to 2010.
Dr. Thomas sees the number as a dangerous trend.
"While it is true that the immediate effects of marijuana on the body are less dangerous than many other drugs of abuse, marijuana impairs judgment (which is especially dangerous for teens), motivation, and memory. Because the brain is still developing during adolescence, over time these effects compound to adversely impact a child's future abilities and opportunities," Dr. Thomas said.
And for four college football players at TCU, the opportunity to further their college football careers took a major hit after their February arrest.
* Dean Stephens was hired at ABC News 4 in 1990. Following several years in the sports department, Dean was first promoted to sports director and then to news anchor. He has been recognized with over 20 industry awards, including Best Sportscaster and Best Reporter in the State of South Carolina and in the Southeast by the South Carolina AP Broadcasters Association and the Radio Television Digital News Association of the Carolinas. More Info