This study, “Trends Among U.S. High School Seniors in Recent Marijuana Use and Associations With Other Substances: 1976–2013,” (you can read it here… ) simply details the statistics of marijuana use and that of other substances from 1976 to 2013. There was also an association of marijuana use with both cigarette use and heavy episodic drinking that was found to be particularly high in recent years among black adolescents.
Oregon legalized marijuana, joining Colorado and Washington State to do so, and I’m certain many more states will follow. There are aspects of legalization that are attractive, especially the decriminalization. We don’t need to fill out jails and prisons with crimes that are related to recreational use of marijuana. Some states are very happy with the tax revenue generated. I hope they will save some for the drug treatment programs that will be needed. While it still remains to be seen what effect legalization will have on total use and early use by teenagers, which is known to be harmful to their developing brains, I worry that this trend shown here is just the beginning.
For those who feel marijuana is harmless, you are simply wrong. Alcohol is not harmless. The increased use of alcohol and cigarettes that comes with marijuana use is not harmless. When started young by teenagers, marijuana seems to have more damaging effects on brain function, motivations, and indeed, for some, can cause a permanent change placing them forever in the mental health world of anxiety, depersonalization, depression, and even psychosis or schizophrenia. Did it cause these things or just trigger what would have happened anyway? I suspect either way it is a trigger, without which you could have avoided untold suffering.
Parents who have experienced daily users who are motivated great students, making a future for themselves, will tell you it is harmless. I’ve yet to find such a parent, but I know by writing this blog some will appear, and good for you if you survived your experiment with your teen. Most aren’t so lucky. If you are predestined genetically to be an addictive type, but never pick up a drink or drug, the beauty is you don’t have to have these substances destroy your life. If you are not sure of your genetics, might you consider playing it safe anyway? The toxic world we live in now seems to put a greater percentage of our children at risk of negative brain effects.
If you are a parent who can make a choice about your own use, I would recommend you choose not to introduce marijuana into your child’s life. If you have lost the power of choice over cigarettes, drugs, marijuana, or alcohol, I would propose to you that your teenager is at high risk of losing control also, that is addiction. If you don’t like that term, then call it dependence, either way, you are a prisoner to your substance of choice and it is not promoting health and wellness.
Sorry that last paragraph sounded horrible (preachy) but I felt it needed to be said. I’ve watched too many in my family and in my addiction practice, struggle with cigarettes, marijuana, and alcohol and in my addiction clinic opiates and methamphetamine. Our brains are much more fragile and delicate than you might think. Many who have been struggling for their lives with addictions will say, “if I only knew what was going to happen to me, I would have never picked up that first drink or taken that first hit of marijuana or popped that first opiate pain pill”. What feels like it is setting you free actually puts you in bondage and will ultimately have you fighting for your very life.