Today is “National Pot Smoking Day.” If you aren’t aware, it is a counterculture holiday in North America where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis and “be happy.” Perhaps you have heard the saying, “It’s 4/20 somewhere?”
Now wait. Pot smoking = happiness? In the short term, yes – weed tricks the brain pathways to release dopamine, the pleasure chemical. This is same chemical that is released when we eat, get a good night’s sleep, have sex, and even – yes! Exercise.
The high? May temporarily reduce anxiety. May function as an escape from the real world. May be the only commonality between a youth and their new found friend. Let’s be honest, there are benefits to weed. Millions of people wouldn’t use it if there weren’t.
The tougher sell – weed’s long-term consequences. We know that weed actually increases anxiety and depression for many users in the long run. We know that it hangs on to the receptors in the brain related to movement, judgement, learning and memory, causing difficulty taking in new information. Stoned teens don’t make good learners. For long term users, it can ultimately eroding IQ points. We know a youth’s brain is not fully developed, so it is impacted more quickly by drugs and alcohol than an adult brain. The younger a youth starts (and continues) using, the more likely they will develop an addiction, and often a co-occurring mental health diagnosis as well.
Try telling that to youth? At Spurwink, we do. All of our day treatment sites have a drug prevention curriculum, and an educator (myself) who teaches youth about marijuana, brain development, alcohol, and tobacco – by acknowledging benefits, and highlighting long term risks in terms of damaged brain development, risk of addiction, and the potential increase in mental illness by young users.
Teaching the long term consequences of pot smoking to youth?
Now that’s something to celebrate.
Christina Fay, LCSW, LADC, CCS, is the Coordinator of Co-occurring Services and DBT at Spurwink
Photo Credit: Asthon – miss.libertine