Monday, May 5, 2014

Don't let our country go to pot

I am very concerned that the collective consciousness in our society today seems to be one that supports the legalization of marijuana. It seems this level of acceptance is rampant across many different factions of society; a variety of age ranges, different levels of education, and various positions of stature within society. In fact, I was listening to NPR last week, and heard a very antiquated sounding congressman (he had an "old man" wobbly sounding voice, I'm sure you've heard this) speaking of the needs for our government to finally legalize marijuana, that marijuana should be given the same standards as were used to legalize alcohol. Two states have already legalized marijuana, and boast in the news headlines how their state is "finally getting out of debt", they are making so much money from sales tax on marijuana.

It's funny, but the only people that I have spoken to who are adamantly against the legalization of marijuana are the family members of alcoholics, addicts, and family members of those suffering from mental illness.

If every person in the United States who is in favor of legalizing marijuana had an addicted or mentally ill family member who they love and care for turn to marijuana for a life coping skill, they might think differently about how marijuana impacts our society. Please try for a moment to put yourself into this scenario: If your loved one (your teen son or daughter, or your college aged cousin, niece or nephew, or your husband or wife) started out by occasionally smoking pot, then began to abuse marijuana where they begin checking out of life by not doing anything EXCEPT staying in their room and smoking marijuana, you may become alarmed. If you tried to help your loved one by getting them into a drug treatment program, and even drug tested them, and you stand by helplessly as your loved one turns to harder drugs, because those drugs don't show up as easily on a drug screen. Now, maybe your loved one, who was always such a great person, regularly lies to you. You feel like you are losing touch with them. (What is happening???) Now your loved one is dealing with shame, humiliation and depression, because that is what happens to the brain when people abuse drugs. You stand by helplessly and watch your loved one fall into a hopeless pit that is now governed by a drug addiction and a newly diagnosed mental illness. Your loved one may fall apart emotionally, mentally, they may leave home, steal from you, even turn on you like they never knew you. Where has the person you love disappeared to?? You feel so helpless as you stand by. They may attempt suicide, they may kill someone. They may kill you.

This may sound drastic, but it happens every single day in our society.

Many of these situations started out with the victim just "trying a little pot". Many teens buy pot from someone walking straight out of a "medical marijuana" clinic. That card carrying person is using the medical marijuana "system" to flat out deal drugs. Legalizing pot will do nothing about keeping it out of the hands (bongs) of those suffering from addiction. Legalizing pot will just allow our society to rationalize another situation that will likely deal a catastrophic blow to our youth, and those who struggle with addiction and mental illness.

And, BTW, pot is a gateway drug. Yes, pot changes the brain's chemistry by tricking the brain into wanting more of the drug, to keep getting high, to check out so one doesn't have to face the mayhem his/her behavior is causing. Yes, people develop the desire for a more intense high, and they will move from smoking pot to other drugs.

There are a few other causes for alarm due to the legalization of marijuana that I would like to mention.

  1. Do you recall in the second half of the 20th century, most college attendees were young men? Now, consider the statistics for college attendance for American males vs. females. Roughly 60% of American college applicants and attendees are young American women now, as compared to young American males. Dropping out of both two and four year colleges, compared with not dropping out, will be associated with higher rates of substance used in adolescence, greater increases in use during the transition to college, and increases in marijuana use… in the post high school period. More info on this can be found here and here.
  2. Marijuana use in teens cause a significant, irreparable drop in IQ. Teens who begin using marijuana before the age of 18, and before the brain is fully developed are more vulnerable to damage from drug use. Please reference these important facts in a 2012 study out of Duke University, which can be found here. I can verify this fact first hand. My son, at age 13, had an IQ of 127, as measured on a set of intellectual tests administered by his school district. Last summer, after another set of intellectual tests administered by a well known neuropsychiatrist, his IQ measured at 97. That is a FULL 20 POINT reduction in IQ.
  3. Risk seeking behavior in the teen years coupled with drug use lead to delays in the transition to adulthood. Young men are said to be closer to the ages of 25-28 years before they successfully transition out of the parental home, marrying and starting a family.  Research shows that neurological changes due to drug use and deviant behavior explain some of the increased risk taking and sensation seeking in adolescence, and that the brain functions regulating emotions and self-control may be late in developing relative to cognitive functions. Read more here.   

(Note: I would also like to point out, for anyone who may be reading this and might suggest my son's brain problems may be due to excessive drug use, that his brain disorder was in place at his birth. Just so the "powers that be" are reminded that his educational testing showed discrepancies that were evident in early testing administered during his elementary school years.)

Thank you for listening. I welcome all comments, however, please do not go all "high and mighty" on me regarding the legalization of marijuana unless you are dealing with an addicted or mentally ill family member. And even then, I may not agree with you. But I do listen, and am generally very reasonable.

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