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Increased pot use among youth raises concerns

By From page A8 | March 08, 2014

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.

Deon Price


Discussion | 7 comments

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  • MattMarch 08, 2014 - 6:38 am

    Wow, you get paid to write for a living? You really think this is a good comparison? "So yes, you’d rather have them do weed than meth. But that is like saying I’d rather be stabbed than shot."

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  • Teach5thMarch 08, 2014 - 9:07 am

    Matt - if you don't know that marijuana hinders ambition, you're not in touch with folks who smoke regularly, or you're not being honest. Our country is rapidly evolving into one where anything goes. So, let's legalize marijuana smoking and send the message to youngsters that it's safer than drinking (as Obama said recently). So they indulge and when they try to get a job they're drug tested and fail. But, what the heck - they can still live off the government. And eventually, with all the free time they have on their hands, they smoke even more. What else do they have to do? Instead of seeing the light and quitting smoking, they become addicted and now they can't quit. So, marijuana, meth, cocaine . . . What a waste of a life!

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  • CD BrooksMarch 08, 2014 - 9:54 am

    Teach5th, as usual you credit Obama with an out-of-context comment. I read the interview and you should read for yourself before making snide little snippets.

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  • Salty DogMarch 08, 2014 - 1:00 pm

    Well CD Please explain it for those of us that did not read it

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  • Danny BuntinMarch 08, 2014 - 2:57 pm

    @CD: At least she did not preface her comment with the usual drivel "I'm a Mother, Teacher....". It is actually scary that this person is a teacher, when she has such a narrow view on things.

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  • MattMarch 08, 2014 - 5:10 pm

    I actually have never smoked weed in my life and urge those not to. My issue was with his comparison. Knives and guns can both cause harm. Weed can cause very little harm UNLESS it's used as a gateway drug (I don't agree that this is usually the case, but Mr. Price is entitled to his opinion). So to compare it to being stabbed was very poor writing.

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  • love our young onesMarch 08, 2014 - 1:14 pm

    Thank you for the topic, and your thoughts. You do seem to have the best interest of youth in mind. I do, however, believe this is not a topic that can be condensed to black and white, good or bad. First off, different strains of Cannabis have different effects. Not all meds create the same condition (your example: hindered motivation). WIth Cannabis, the strain of plant makes the difference: The sativas are great for daytime, active, or less-sedated outcomes. The indicas are a helpful sleep aid, pain reliever, and seizure reducer. Indica will give you the worst munchies too, but that's another topic. Perhaps our youth are not choosy about what they smoke, but for journalistic accuracy, all "weed" is not created equal. Next, please consider WHY our youth use ANYthing to alter/enhance their mind and experiences. I believe they are bored out of their marbles!! Our schools are an agonizing combination of irrelevance, social torture, and early mornings. They're not just escaping through drugs, they're cutting their own skin (in class!), sexting when they're 12, and wondering why they are here at all. Until teens are engaged in something meaningful and engaging to them, they're going to seek out relief. Personally, I don't blame them.

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