I teach a chemical awareness class once a month all year round at the Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau. Every month for the last ten years I’ve stood in front of approximately eight to ten youth and their parents to talk about alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. In the last year I have received more pushback and questions surrounding marijuana than I ever have. People are beginning to believe that it’s “not that bad.” The youth of this generation, and especially the high school juniors and seniors of the last couple years, seem to be getting pulled into a movement that is trying to paint marijuana in a better light than it deserves.
In the last year we’ve seen two states legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for those twenty-one and older. This has sent ripples through the marijuana using community and is validating a lot of young people’s incorrect notion that marijuana is safe for them to use. It’s not.
Average street marijuana is approximately four times more potent today than it was in the 1960s. It has more affects on the brain than it used to.
Marijuana is addictive. Currently it has the same addiction rate as alcohol. One out of every nine to ten people that use marijuana on a regular basis will become addicted to it.
Marijuana slows reaction time. It is dangerous to drive under the influence of marijuana. It slows thought processes which slows critical decision making. You can get a DUI for just driving under the influence of marijuana.
Marijuana deposits THC in the fat linings of brain cells and slows the brain down. The longer a person smokes the more this build-up happens and the more brittle the brain becomes. Electricity stops flowing through certain parts of the brain and, much like a stroke victim, the brain needs to “re-wire” to find other routes for information to flow. Users become unmotivated. It takes more work to perform the same brain functions they used to, so the end effect is that they do less thinking that results in less productivity both mentally and physically.
Teenagers rarely believe any of these facts, because they likely can’t see any of them happening within the first six months to year of use. Depending on how much someone is using it can take that long for some of the physical damage to set in on the brain. It creeps up slowly on the user and is hard to notice even when it’s happening to them. Just because it’s not a dramatic and immediate threat for overdose like some other drugs doesn’t mean it’s not a threat. Marijuana mainly robs people of their lives a little at a time, not all at once.
Our society needs to start telling the story of the longer term harmful effects of marijuana. Our youth need to get this message loud and clear.
Matt Howard is the community justice program manager at the Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau. Contact him at 651-464-3685 or [email protected]