As a therapist to teens and children, I talk with kids all day long whose lives have been trashed by recreational marijuana use. As a result I find myself frustrated by the load of bull fed to us by legalization activists, a president who is proud to have inhaled, basement smokers and SNL hosts that this junk is harmless.
A recent study by the Journal of Neuroscience is confirmation of a fact that dozens of studies have already shown us…pot smoking changes the brains of young people in some pretty dangerous ways. This specific study indicates that even recreational smoking of 1 time a week makes measurable change in these brain structures.
These changes in brain structures, the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala, are part of the systems that control emotion and motivation. Smoking pot, we’ve learned, kills your motivation because it interferes with the pleasure we feel from many of the most helpful things we do in life (among other things). How is this new news? I remember the PSA’s from my childhood that said THE EXACT SAME THING 30 years ago.
In the years since my home state of Washington legalized it, high school students tell me regularly that “it’s no big deal,” and why wouldn’t they believe it since the voters put their stamp of approval on it. In that time I have seen these same kids, who use it “recreationally” fail multiple classes because they just can find the motivation to do their work. They seek prescriptions of neurostimulants to enhance their motivation because now they can convince their therapists and their doctors that they are ADHD since they can’t focus or find the motivation to do their work. I have seen them give up promising athletic careers because they no longer get the joy they used to get out of competition. I have seen them become so depressed that they are launched into fits of rage and arrested for domestic violence, battery and destruction of property.
Sure, these are anecdotal pieces of evidence, but the mounting volume of research tells me that these are certainly not just coincidence.
Here is what we know: Marijuana is NOT harmless, it is increasingly easy to get by underage users, and teens who otherwise might accomplish great things are being sidelined by their THC induced apathy. Despite this knowledge adults AND teens continue to encourage with words and example the use of this debilitating substance. Too often parents, grandparents and mentors of underage users who are aware of its abuse don’t fight the battle to stop its use because they figure that they are just going to use it when they are 21 anyway… and why not….it’s ok then.
Instead I invite responsible parents and other adults everywhere to start sending a new message: This stuff will ruin your life and as long as it is up to me I will not allow it in your life.