The Worst Thing About Weed - Perspective Of A Teen Specialist

 By Miguel Brown

What the worst thing about smoking weed? I've been working with teens for 10 years, I have a masters in marriage and family therapy from U.M. and I've been involved in various research studies focusing on teenagers with substance abuse issues. So here is my professional opinion for what it's worth. This is the worst thing about weed:

When you're high it makes it OK to be bored. It makes your anger, anxiety, shyness, shame and sadness go away for a while. You get hungry, you laugh, food tastes great, you sleep, you wake up feeling strung out and a little less sensitive to life's troubles. It's an escape from the painful and the mundane. And it works immediately, at least for a while. In short, smoking weed becomes how you deal with life's problems.

This is horrible because when you're a teenager your main task is to learn how to manage problems, process your emotions effectively, learn from mistakes, become responsible, start, maintain and repair relationships that are important to you, and develop an identity that bolsters your self esteem. These skills are essential to becoming a capable, mature and happy adult. Here's the problem: If you're a pot head, all the these skills become redundant and irrelevant. You already know how to make your self feel better and fix problems: get high. It becomes a substitute for facing reality and addressing your problems. In a nut shell, becoming a pothead keeps you at the maturity level you had when you started smoking weed.

I like to think about it like this: You live in a wood cabin. You notice you have termites. You do some research on the internet to learn about the best ways to kill them. You go to Home Depot get the equipment, learn to use it, set it up, implement the plan and kill all the termites. This is a lot of work, and it's not easy, but you get the job done. If you ever get termites again you'll know what to do and it'll be a little easier than the first time. You just matured! You are now a little better at dealing with life! As it should be!

So what does a pothead do? Paint over the part of the cabin where you can see the damage. Now that part looks great! Brand new and shinny and you can rest easy! But, of course, the termites are still in there doing their work. Some time passes by and you see more damage. No problem. I got more paint right here! And you repeat this cycle over and over again. Eventually, walls are collapsing, there are holes in the roof and you're starting to realize the you can't build a house out of paint. You have a big problem and you haven't been getting any better at fixing it because all you do is paint over it. No maturing has occurred, and enter avoidable and needless suffering.

But, it is important to recognize the appeal of using paint. It's seductive. It works fast and it looks great! At least for a while... This seldom spoken about effect of marijuana is insidious. It creeps up on people. It makes your problems worse and at the same time robs you of your ability to deal with them. But man does it feel good in the short term!

I have noticed a pattern during my years of working with teenager who use drugs. It's a common fantasy, never really articulated but always just under the surface. It's the junky hope. Chasing the dragon some call it. It goes something like this: If I use this or that drug or combination of drugs just right, just often enough, or in just the right way... I will be happy and life won't hurt so much. It really is tragic. But I like to think about it because it reminds me that these kids are just doing what everyone else is doing. The best they can with what they know and with the ultimate goal of being happy and minimizing suffering. It reminds me to have empathy for them.

The strategy of lying to your children about the "deadly" effects and consequences of smoking marijuana in an attempt to scare them out of using it is doomed to failure. There is just way too much information out there about real health effects of marijuana. You'll be found out, you're children will resent the thinly veiled and manipulative control tactic, and your credibility will be called into question in their minds. Which makes everything you say suspect. Plus you're missing the point!! Are the health, legal and brain effects bad? Yes, of course! But that's not the worst thing about weed...

Don't lie to your children... help them mature.
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By Miguel Brown