I was asked recently to participate in an online debate about a recent survey that revealed that more teens are smoking marijuana as opposed to drinking or doing other more dangerous drugs such as cocaine. The question that I was asked to respond to was: Should we be optimistic about the recent revelation that more teens are smoking marijuana than doing other drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine?
My first reaction is emotional, and sounds like a parent: “No way! How could doing any recreational drug be good news on any level?”
The second take is a little calmer: We can rationalize that marijuana is much-less reckless and life-threatening than alcohol, meth, crack or even “skittles,” which can refer to a variety of prescription medications. Yes, this drug has become more acceptable because of legalization efforts and the modern use (or excuse that some people use) of it being used for medicinal purposes, giving it less of a stigma than most other types of recreational drugs.
But in the end, let’s be honest: Marijuana use is still a very ill-advised idea for youths who are transitioning into adulthood.
The first reason is obvious: Hello – it’s still illegal! Anyone using it recreationally could end up facing charges. Second, many employers, training programs and even educational institutions are doing urinalysis or drug tests, which could result in disqualification. Third, according documented research, there is evidence that marijuana hinders motivation. Pot tends to relax people to the point that they are unmotivated, and the more frequent users are less active in other endeavors.
This is the wrong time for young people to be in slow motion. In today’s competitive environment, you need to be at the top of your game.
Finally, this is a psychoactive drug. Yes, marijuana can benefit people with many serious medical conditions, like AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. However, there is a reason doctors don’t advise healthy people to take it: research has found harmful effects on the central nervous system, and it hinders memory.
My response generated a very heated debate from people from all over the globe, most of them arguing for the legalization of marijuana. Contrary to popular opinion, an increase in the number of youths using marijuana is not so harmless.
There were passionate advocates of marijuana use and it’s legalization who have made statements in this forum encouraging young people to smoke the drug to enhance creativity and academic performance. One advocate even testified that he was a college graduate who finished with honors, and was a regular pot user during those years.
Really! Is this the message we want to send to our children? “Smoke Weed to Succeed!” Responses like these make it obvious that marijuana does damage to the brain.
Most of my life I’ve been around people who were regular users of marijuana. Most are still functional and working but most admit it has done its damage to their short-term memory. By my own observation and experience, a scientific study was not necessary, working with students who were addicted to marijuana. Their grades and motivation decreased significantly.
I would encourage responsible parents and youth workers to be mindful of the potential danger of marijuana use, but not to discount its practical benefit for medicinal purposes.
So yes, you’d rather have them do weed than meth. But that is like saying I’d rather be stabbed than shot. Either way, you are inflicted with harm. Let’s keep things in perspective.
Deon Price is youth life skills coach and writer. He can be reached at [email protected] or follow him at www.twitter.com/youthgeneration.